W. M. Keck Observatory Launches App KeckWatch

Posted by on July 17, 2015 in Press Releases | 0 comments

W. M. Keck Observatory Launches App KeckWatch

Kamuela, Hawai‘i – Today, W. M. Keck Observatory launched a new smartphone app to stoke the curiosity and wonder of astronomy. KeckWatch was built by First Light Design – the makers of category definer Distant Suns – and offers mankind’s collected knowledge of the Cosmos on the screen of your iOS device. In addition to being able to easily identify stars and planets with both conventional and Hawaiian names, it offers a unique glimpse through the gigantic eyes of the Keck I and Keck II telescopes, the two largest and most scientifically productive telescope on Earth. The app can be can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store today.

“Our work studying the cosmos these past two decades has led to remarkable understandings of our Universe and has placed Hawaii as the premiere location on Earth for astronomical research,” said Hilton Lewis, Director of W. M. Keck Observatory. “This kind of scientific curiosity that has always been a part of Hawai‘i’s cultural heritage, from the ancient celestial navigators to today. This app has been carefully designed to be fun and easy to use while offering a wealth of knowledge to everyone that uses it.”

KeckWatch has been built using the engine of the popular award-winning astronomy app Distant Suns, and provides users with a handheld-planetarium, allowing them to turn their phone in any direction to see the stars and planets in their current positions, day or night. By altering the preferences in the app, users can explore the common names of these interest points, the constellations they are a part of, their role in zodiacal figures, their historical names, and even their Hawaiian star names. Other features can help users explore meteor showers and solar systems.

The app will also show users when the mighty Keck Observatory telescopes are on sky and in use by astronomers, as well as where the telescopes are being aimed in the sky at any instant.

To download the app, search for KeckWatch in the iTunes App Store. The app, which was made available in the app store for a soft launch on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, is free to download and does not require registration for use.

The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes near the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawai‘i feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrographs and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

First Light Design, LLC, is a privately owned company. It first released Distant Suns for the Commodore Amiga in 1987, followed by versions for Macintosh and Windows. Distant Suns has partnered with NASA’s Night Sky Network and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific to include local, United States listings of astronomical events and activities in the App. It has also partnered with the SETI Institute to provide real-time monitoring of Allen Telescope Array extraterrestrial targets, as well as Astronomy magazine and Astronomy.com. First Light Design is a proud member of Moms With Apps, a collaborative group of family-friendly developers with family-friendly apps. Details about the company and its products can be found at Distant Suns.


Distant Suns is a trademark of First Light Design, LLC.


Christine Matsuda Smith
Bennet Group Strategic Communications
(808) 753-7134