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See the heights of astronomy in 3-D

John Brecher / NBC News

Star trails light the night sky above observatories atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. In the distance is Haleakala on the island of Maui. Look at the image through red-blue glasses to see the 3-D effect.


What better way to start off the year than with a beautiful view of the heavens from one of the world's highest astronomical vantage points? Here's one way to make it better: Show it in 3-D!

This picture of the Mauna Kea Observatories was captured last month by NBC News' John Brecher during a visit to Hawaii's Big Island. The 13,796-foot-high (4,205-meter-high) facility is home to 13 telescopes, ranging from the University of Hawaii's 0.9-meter educational telescope to the 25-meter radio dish used as part of the Very Long Baseline Array.

Here you see, from left, Japan's Subaru Telescope; the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes, operated by Caltech and the University of California; and NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility. Maui's Haleakala volcano looms in the far background, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) away. As my colleague Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy blog would say, "Holy Haleakala!"

The view is really worth exclaiming about when you see it in 3-D. If you can't make your way to Mauna Kea just now and see it in person, put on some red-blue glasses to look into the sky's depths. If you're in the market for 3-D spectacles, check out this list of online vendors. You can also keep an eye on the Cosmic Log Facebook page for our next 3-D glasses giveaway, and use your specs to see all the cosmic 3-D pictures we've pointed to over the past decade.

Here's to a delightful year of discoveries — from Mauna Kea and the rest of the world's great telescopes.

More astronomy for the new year:


Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.