The W.M. Keck Observatory at PLU is used by PLU students in the Introductory Astronomy course and is a popular resource for public viewing during special astronomical events such as the recent transit of Venus. The observatory is open to the public and can accommodate visits by small groups. Research work at the observatory has included asteroid observations that have been shared with the Harvard-Smithsonian Minor Planet Center, and the observatory is available for qualified students interested in carrying out research projects under the supervision of faculty.
The observatory was built with the support of a $500,000 grant in 1998 from the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles and saw “first light” in 2000. It houses a fully automated 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain reflecting telescope built by Meade Instruments, and the telescope is fully integrated with an automated dome that tracks the movements of the telescope as it moves to different objects in the sky.