Caltech, meanwhile, was eager to move ahead and Goldberger, says Keck, flew up to Berkeley and made his position perfectly clear: If UC didn't promptly sign an agreement with Caltech to build the telescope, Caltech was prepared to go it alone. At this point, UC dropped its plan for two telescopes, and after quietly returning the Hoffman gift, on Jan. 3, 1985, UC and Caltech jointly and with great fanfare announced a 50-50 partnership to build a new 10-meter telescope, to be named W. M. Keck Observatory. Under the terms of the agreement, Caltech would put up the money to build the telescope while UC would supply operating costs of $3.5 million a year for the next 25 years. Although title to the telescope would be held by Caltech, Caltech would lease the telescope to a new corporation (the California Assn. for Research in Astronomy) for $1 a year. Each school would have three representatives on CARA's board of directors and the chairmanship would alternate. And CARA would administer the new facility.
Ground-breaking for the telescope was celebrated in Hawaii on Sept. 12, 1985. The foundations are complete; the dome is to be delivered this spring. If the project remains on schedule, it will go into operation (called "first light") in 1991.
FOR THEW. M. Keck Foundation, the publicity generated by the gift was everything it might have hoped. Stories appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time, on AP and UPI wire services and on the ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN television networks. As a result, the foundation concluded, it had gained "immeasurable" new credibility and stature in the minds of the nation's opinion leaders. Furthermore, now that a private foundation has come forward to build a new telescope entirely without federal funds, Congress is even less likely to appropriate upwards of $100 million for a high-technology telescope of its own. Thus, believes Keck, the Keck Observatory will probably remain the world's largest for many years to come.
At first, some members of the UC astronomical community were more than a little miffed that ownership of the world's biggest telescope had slipped through their hands. But the more thoughtful UC people realized that they never really had the money to build the telescope in the first place. And besides, as Jerry Nelson is fond of pointing out, sharing equally in the use of the world's biggest telescope is a heck of a lot better than owning 100% of nothing at all.