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The Gemini Observatory and the Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope glow in the fading light on Mauna Kea's summit.


Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM at 27 mm, 1/5 sec at f/11, ISO 200

On our recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, Alison and I spent our second-to-last evening on the summit of Mauna Kea to watch and photograph the sunset. At nearly 14,000 feet, we were thousands of feet above a blanket of clouds that covered the lower elevations of the island and extended out to sea and across the channel to Maui.

At this high elevation whatever plant life exists is well-hidden to elude the harsh conditions, and with the loose volcanic soil all around, it’s easy to imagine yourself transported to another planet. The other-worldly architecture of the observatory buildings only adds to the feeling of being in the middle of some extra-terrestrial landscape.

Pictured above are the Gemini Observatory (foreground) and the Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope (background), two of the dozen or so telescopes constructed in this desolate locale to take advantage of the thin atmosphere and typically cloudless skies on Mauna Kea’s summit. Very soon after the sun descended below the horizon, the Gemini’s silver dome began to rotate slowly and the observing slot door retracted, offering us a glimpse of the dome’s interior as shown in posted photograph.

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