Kitt Peak National Observatory is the home of the largest array of optical and radio telescopes in the world, located at the south west of Tuscon, and sits just shy of 7,000 feet (2,133 meters). Needless to say, the views from the top are stunning and feel like they go forever!
We arrived a few hours before sunset and were able to check out 2 of the publicly accessible telescopes before starting our night observation program.
It was pretty amazing to learn about the internal complexity of how various telescopes work and how they are designed differently for different purposes. For example the Solar Telescope goes well below ground to help cool off the solar rays that it collects, which is completely different from a celestial telescope.
The night observation program is a 4 hour introduction to astronomy and provides a well rounded awareness of star-gazing and how observatories work. We got to watch sunset from the mountain top and learn about what makes the various colours that you see. We then learned how to work with star charts to get an orientation to the sky. We had a partial moon so it wasn’t perfect darkness but it was definitely interesting to look for star clusters from the top of the peak. The guides were fabulous and used laser pointers to help you find them if you couldn’t work it out on your own. We then experienced searching for more complex stars using binoculars and could definitely see the difference it made. Topping the evening off was getting to use the research class telescope to see distant galaxies and planets. We all thought the best part was an up close view of the craters of the moon!
We had been learning about early astronomers and the big bang in homeschool the month before so it was a great opportunity to connect all the dots. Definitely worth the visit!
One response to “Kitt’s Peak Observatory – bringing the sky to life!”
I have always been interested in the stars but never had a real lesson. I can hardly wait for you to give me a lesson. with love Bob