Director’s Message: Kilauea Volcano Eruptions


As you know, Hawaii Island is experiencing volcanic activity in the Puna district with multiple eruptions and hundreds of earthquakes over the past few days. On Friday, there were two strong temblors that measured magnitude 5.4 and 6.9 respectively.

Mahalo to everyone who expressed concern for our Keck Observatory ohana, who are all safe and sound. Thankfully, no one was injured.

The safety of our employees is always our top priority. Per our safety protocols, we evacuated our headquarters on Friday when the stronger earthquake hit. Several staff members who either live near the volcanic activity or have families in/near the area were sent home early so they could check on loved ones.

Our assessment of the impact of the earthquake revealed some damage to the mechanical bearing system at the base of the Keck I telescope. This system is what keeps the telescope centered as it rotates. We have a team of experts on site addressing the situation. They have determined that repairs should be completed within a few days. Until then, observing is cancelled on Keck I.

Fortunately, there is no evidence of damage to Keck II; however, as a safety precaution, we cancelled observing on the Keck II telescope on Friday and Saturday nights; we expect to resume operations on Keck II tonight (Sunday).

Due to the recent swarm of earthquakes and likelihood of aftershocks, we will continue to carefully assess the situation. Emergency decisions will be made based on our safety priorities: our staff first, our facilities second, and observing third.

Our thoughts go out to the communities affected by the Kilauea volcano eruptions and we hope everyone remains safe.


Hilton Lewis, Director

W. M. Keck Observatory