Keck Observatory Director Taft Armandroff to Step Down

Kamuela, HI – The Board of Directors of the W. M. Keck Observatory announced today that Taft Armandroff, executive director of the world’s premier ground-based astronomical observatory, will step down on June 1 to become a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and director of its McDonald Observatory.

Armandroff joined Keck Observatory in June 2006. During his tenure, the observatory continued to be a global leader in optical and infra-red astronomy. Keck Observatory serves nearly five hundred astronomers drawn not only from the United States but also from around the world, including Australia. The observatory also provides ground-based support for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Before coming to Keck Observatory, Armandroff worked at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona, for 19 years, holding positions of associate director and director of the NOAO Gemini Science Center. He is a 1982 graduate in astronomy of Wesleyan University, and he earned his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in astronomy from Yale University. His scientific research has focused on dwarf spheroidal galaxies, stellar populations in the Milky Way galaxy and nearby galaxies, globular clusters, chemical evolution of galaxies, and dark matter.

As executive director of the W. M. Keck Observatory, Armandroff reports to a governing board representing the observatory’s founding partners, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California (UC). The governing board also has liaisons from the NASA, the W. M. Keck Foundation, and the University of Hawaii. In 2013, Keck Observatory managed a budget of $25 million to support the organization’s 120 professional staff, operations, and advanced instrument initiatives. 

“Taft did an exceptional job in maintaining the high productivity of Keck Observatory,” said Tom Soifer, Caltech Professor of Physics and a member of the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA) Board. “During his tenure federal and privately funded cutting edge instruments were built and great advances were made in adaptive optics. We wish him well in his new job.”

The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectroscopy and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization (CARA) and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.