Kitt Peak National Observatory – An Experience Like no Other

Kitt Peak National Observatory, located on the Tohono O’odham Nation, sits on 6,880-feet Kitt Peak in the Quinlan Mountains of the Sonoran desert.  Containing 24 optical and two radial telescopes, it is the largest gathering of astronimical instruments in the world.  Founded in 1958, the observatory’s objectives are to strengthen basic research and education in astronomy throughout the United States, its territories and possessions.  The observatory is available to qualified personnel to conduct research in the the field of stellar and solar astronomy.

From left to right, the Mayall 4m Telescope, the 2.3m Bok Reflector, the 0.9m Spacewatch, the 0.6m LOTIS, and the 1.8m Spacewatch.

From left to right, the Mayall 4m Telescope, the 2.3m Bok Reflector, the 0.9m Spacewatch, the 0.6m LOTIS, and the 1.8m Spacewatch.

 

It is home to the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, the largest unobstructed solar reflector (it doesn’t have a secondary mirror in the path of incoming light) in the world.    Designed by Myron Goldsmith in 1962, it is named for astronomers Robert McMath and Keith Pierce.  I wish I would have had internet access before visiting the observatory, as they were allowing visitors into the main part of the telescope for solar viewings throughout the day, but we got there just as the last one was ending.  Something to remember for next time.

The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory

The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory

The interior of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory.

The interior of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory.

There are 22 optical telescopes and 2 radio telescopes located at Kitt Peak.  Besides getting to go into the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, we also got to visit the 2.1m Telescope, that was first opened for public viewing in September 1964.

The 2.1m Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

The 2.1m Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Because we had spent so much time exploring on the way up to Kitt Peak, there wasn’t as much time to explore the observatory as much as I would have liked so I’ll have to go back sometime in the future (maybe they’ll have it open to the public at night for star gazing).  I would have liked to get into the Mayall 4m Telescope as well, but that will also have to wait until a future visit.

 

Until the next adventure…

 

 

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