Posts Tagged ‘Kitt Peak’

Weekend Wanderings…Look to the Skies—Kitt Peak

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

   The clear air of Tucson, the dark night skies, and lack of light pollution are contributing factors for placing Kitt Peak Observatory on the Tohono O’Odham Nation, just 52 miles southwest of Tucson.      

       Traveling from Tucson center westerly along Ajo Highway- Route 86- (which is also the road one takes to Pueto Penasco aka Rocky Point in Mexico), one leaves behind the newer pointy Tucson Mountains.  The road is flat and fairly straight.  One passes Ryan Airfield, an adjunct facility of the Tucson International Airport and home to several private planes; small communities of homes and mobile homes; and uninteresting level land where one can see occassional bores from the rain runoff during the monsoon season.   Dust devils rise from this sandy land like minature tornados whirling in the wind.

    Onward to Three Points, also known as Robles Junction, past Diamond Bell Ranch which some day will be developed and emerge as a  thriving community much like communities now within the borders of Tucson which fifteen years ago, people believed were “in the boonies”.   The Comobari Mountains loom in the foreground and as we travel, we can see some of the 25 telescopes atop Kitt Peak in the Quinlan Mountains.   We pass a huge pumpkin field, and a few farms, and more homes which seem to sit in the middle of noplace.

     Not too far after entering the Tohono O’Odham Nation is a turnoff to the south and we begin our winding ascent to Kitt Peak.  Up, up, up we travel until the telescopes are in full view.  The vegetation changes.   We have magnificient views of all that lies below us.   We are at an elevation of 6,875 feet above sea level, not quite as high as the Catalina Mountains (9,157 feet above sea level)  which also house telescopes.

       Kitt Peak is home to 25 optical telescopes including two radio telescopes,  and is part of the  National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).   By day there is study of the sun at the Solar Observatory. 

      The September cooler temperatures in Tucson provide an excellent time to visit Kitt Peak either during the daylight guided tours, or the Night Sky tours at night.   The temperature differential on top of Kitt Peak may be uncomfortable if you go in January or February, especially to the night presentation.  Bring a sweater and maybe a hat to keep the warmth within your body, or a heavy jacket if you are going at night during the winter months.  The temperature differential can be 20 degrees or more.

     The personnel at Kitt Peak are eager to answer questions and the tours are thorough and interesting in explanation. Both novice and professionals alike will have something to take away from one of these tours.  And if you hail from an area which has severe light pollution, you will marvel at the numbers of stars in the sky.  Kitt Peak is a very definite stop for people visiting Tucson … and those in Tucson who have never visited.

     Additional information is provided in the Resources including a virtual tour of Kitt Peak.  Enjoy!


Kitt Peak:   


Visitors Center:

Virtual Tour:

Solar Observatory:    NASA Link: