Visit to The Keck Telescopes--Luca Rizzi DayThe long-awaited day finally arrived. Hector and his partner Christopher, Woody, and I, and Hector's good friend Luca Rizzi set out for the long and gradual ascent up to Mauna Kea, elevation 13,600 ft. It is here that Hector photographed one of his first "Hector's Takes on My Cakes," and it is the first time that it is being posted in this extraordinary top of the world setting. Luca is an astronomer who works in a complex near Hilo and at the W. M. Keck Observatory. The observatory houses two identical telescopes. The first was built in 1993 and the second one was completed in 1996. Luca explained that the observatory looks more like a mechanical shop and warehouse with some computer rooms, than a pristine scientific laboratory. Each telescope weighs over 300 tons. The 36 hexagonal segments required to compose the primary mirrors make these telescopes the largest observable telescopes in the world. On the telescopes, each segment is kept stable by a system of active optics, which uses extremely rigid support structures in combination with adjustable warping harnesses. During observation, a computer-controlled system of sensors and actuators adjusts the position of each segment, relative to its neighbors, to an accuracy of four nanometers. This twice-per-second adjustment counters the effect of gravity as the telescope moves, in addition to other environmental effects that can affect the mirror shape. Luca methodically went over safety precautions and possible health effects of the extremely high altitude, checking on us from time to time. We walked and moved around in slow motion to minimize any possible effects in the 50˚F/10˚C temperature designed to mirror the outside environment. We were dwarfed by the over-two story tall sphere structure of the telescope. Luca explained various telescope apparati that are stationed around a walkway surrounding the telescopes, which can be attached to the telescopes for particular experiments. One spectrometer was cooled to just above absolute zero -456˚F/-273˚C. Hector put together this spectacular slide show of our visit to the Keck Telescopes.
Luca planned a very special dinner for us that evening at Holuakoa Gardens & Café. The restaurant was closed for the evening but Luca's friend, the chef, Duane Pabre treated us all to an incredible Italian dinner under the arbor on the outdoor patio. It was a veritable embarrassment of riches--a seven course abondanza including Mahimahi with mushroom risotto and citrus butter sauce, grass fed beef brisket with local vegetables in a hamakua mushroom demi glace, pan seared pork confit with kobocha pumpkin puree, braised rainbow Swiss chard, and caramelized onions in a red wine sauce, and my favorite, the house gnocchi with Hawaiian pumpkin, sweet peppers, local squash, hamakua mushrooms in a gorgonzola/parmesan cream sauce. For dessert was the ultimate lilikoi (passion) cheesecake. Chef Duane came out to greet us at the end of the dinner and prepared doggie bags of what we couldn't manage to finish for next day's lunch. On our final day, Christopher treated us to an exceptional sushi lunch at Sushi Shiono in downtown Kona, and we treated our hosts Patti and Mary Kimball to dinner at Lemon Grass. The morning of our departure we had a last breakfast of papaya, star fruit, and fresh squeezed orange and a last walk part way down the mountain with Hector. And on the long flight return from paradise we sustained ourselves with mac nuts and peppery cookies from the upcoming book while going over the notes from the Beta Baker's and reading through and tweaking all the chapter openers. Hector put together a lovely video recap of the entire visit. We await with great interest what Hector will do in the future with his multiplicity of skills and talents.