Rising to a height of over 6800 feet above the Sonoran Desert floor,
Kitt Peak, although almost 60 miles from Tucson, can easily be seen
from many areas of the city. This is made easier due in part to the
unique design of some of the telescopes situated in the Quinlan Mountains.
In all there are twenty-two optical and two radio telescopes. The
tallest is the eighteen story Mayall Telescope. This is the world's
largest collection of telescopes.
Due to the fact that Kitt Peak is isolated far from any major cities
or towns (aside from Tucson which mandates Kitt Peak friendly lighting
systems), the skies open to the grandeur of the heavens in ways not
possible to most astronomical complexes.
In 1958 Kitt Peak beat out 150 other mountain ranges throughout the
United States as the ideal location for sky science. The endeavors
are supported by the National Science Foundation. The 200-acre site
is on land leased from the Tohono O'odham Indians. The lease is constant
as long as the studies continue.
Scientists apply for visitation and use of the telescopes sometimes
years in advance, particularly in anticipation of the occurrence of
An exciting aspect of Kitt Peak is that, while it is a center for
scientific study, it is also open to the public. From Tucson it is
a lovely drive through the beautiful Sonoran desert and a dramatic
climb to the scopes. Tours are conducted daily. Bear in mind that
this is a research center and people are working with the scopes.
You will not be invited to look for yourself but the visitor's center
has photographs and descriptions of amazing finds in the outer limits
There are also classes available at various times throughout the
year. Three of the most popular are Asteroid Hunt, Astronomy as A
Hobby and Fun with the Sun.
It can be a wonderful way to spend a full day seeing the Sonoran
Desert and part of our varied elevations. Bring your lunch. No food
is served there but there is a visitor's center as well as a very
nice picnic area. Bring your camera, as the day views are incredible.
Look east to Tucson and south into Mexico. The cool spring, summer
and fall weather allows for many opportunities to visit.
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