Kitt Peak National Observatory
Tucson, AZ
April 9, 2010

Photos and Slide Show

YouTube Video

Wikipedia Article

Kit Peak Website

The Kitt Peak National Observatory is located about an hour west of Tucson, AZ on top of, well, Kitt Peak.  There are a couple of dozen observatories on the mountain, most run by the National Science Foundation and the rest owned and operated by specific universities.  There is one privately owned observatory but it is up for sale.  Anyone got $5,000,000??  Most of the observatories are optical but two radio telescopes are also on the mountain.  In addition to the traditional nighttime telescopes, the world's largest solar observatory is located on Kitt Peak.  The observatories are on the reservation of the Tohono O'odham Nation under a lease agreement that dates back to 1958. 

Guided tours are given to the three largest observatories...the 2.1 meter (84-inches), 4.1 meter (161 inches) optical telescopes as well as the solar observatories.  And while those tours and the static displays in the visitor center are very interesting, the real reason for our visit to Kitt Peak was for the nightly Star Party.  During the 4-hour Star Party we had a chance to observe planets, star clusters and even other galaxies through 16-inch reflecting telescopes.  The rings of Saturn as well as three of it's largest moons were just amazing.  And beyond that I finally learned how to use my star chart the proper way.  Now if I could just figure out how my star plotting software works.

It was a 4-hour round trip between our campground in Benson, AZ and Kitt Peak and we didn't get back to the camper until 1am but it was well worth it.   Tickets for the Star Party absolutely require advance reservations and no parties are held during the summer monsoon season.  But if you find yourself in Tucson between September thru May be sure to check it out.