Kitt Peak National Observatory

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Kitt Peak National Observatory
Overview of some of the telescopes at the Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Organization NOAO
Code 695  
Location Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona, United States
Altitude 2,096 m (6,875 ft)
Weather 72% clear nights
KPNO Nicholas U. Mayall Telescope 4.0 m Ritchey-Chrétien reflector
WIYN Telescope 3.5 m Ritchey-Chrétien reflector
McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope Unobstructed solar reflector
KPNO 2.1 m Telescope Fourth largest on the mountain
Coudé Feed Tower Coudé spectrograph
SOLIS Monitors solar variability
Coronado Array Three solar instruments used for public education
RCT Consortium Telescope Robotically controlled
WIYN 0.9 m Telescope Galactic studies
Calypso Observatory Recently acquired by LSST Project
CWRU Burrell Schmidt Galactic studies
SARA Observatory Variable stars, undergraduate training
Visitor Center telescopes Three instruments used for nightly public programs
Spacewatch 1.8 m Telescope 72 in mirror scavenged from the Mount Hopkins MMT
Spacewatch 0.9 m Telescope Spacewatch
Super-LOTIS Designed to look for visible signatures of GRBs
Auxiliary solar telescopes Two 0.9-m instruments
Bok Telescope Versatile
MDM Observatory 1.3 m McGraw-Hill Telescope Originally at Ann Arbor
MDM Observatory 2.4 m Hiltner Telescope Galactic surveys
ARO 12m Radio Telescope One of two telescopes operated by the Arizona Radio Observatory, part of Steward Observatory
VLBA One of ten radio-telescopes forming the VLBA
DIMM all-sky camera monitors seeing

The Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) is a United States astronomical observatory site located on 2,096 m (6,880 ft) Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O'odham Nation, 88 kilometers (55 mi) west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona. With 24 optical and two radio telescopes, it is the largest, most diverse gathering of astronomical instruments in the world.[1] The observatory is administered by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).

General information[edit]

Kitt Peak was selected by its first director, Aden B. Meinel, in 1958 as the site for a national observatory under contract with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was administered by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. The land was leased from the Tohono O'odham under a perpetual agreement. The second director (1960 to 1971) was Nicholas U. Mayall. In 1982 NOAO was formed to consolidate the management of three optical observatories — Kitt Peak; the National Solar Observatory facilities at Kitt Peak and Sacramento Peak, New Mexico; and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The observatory sites are under lease from the Tohono O'odham Nation at the amount of a quarter dollar per acre yearly, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Council in the 1950s. In 2005, the Tohono O'odham Nation brought suit against the National Science Foundation to stop further construction of gamma ray detectors in the Gardens of the Sacred Tohono O'odham Spirit I'itoi, which are just below the summit.[2]

The principal instruments at KPNO are the Mayall 4 metre telescope; the WIYN 3.5 metre telescope; and further 2.1 m, 1.3 m, 0.9 m, and 0.4 m reflecting telescopes. The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope on the facilities is the largest solar telescope in the world and the largest unobstructed reflector (it doesn't have a secondary mirror in the path of incoming light). The ARO 12m Radio Telescope is also in the location.

Kitt Peak is famous for hosting the first telescope (an old 91 cm reflector) used to search for near-Earth asteroids, and calculating the probability of an impact with planet Earth.[3]

Kitt Peak hosts an array of programs for the public to take part in:

  • Daily, there are three tours that are guided by staff, speaking about the history of the observatory as well as touring a major research telescope.
  • Each night, the Kitt Peak Visitor Center hosts its Nightly Observing Program, which allows visitors to arrive in the late afternoon, watch the sunset, and use binoculars and telescopes to view the cosmos.[4]
  • Additionally, there is the Advanced Observing Program (AOP) for advanced amateur astronomers. This program allows for a one-on-one, full-night tour using any of the visitor's center’s telescopes. Guests may choose to do DSLR imaging, CCD imaging, or simply take in the sights with their eye to the telescope.[5]

Kitt Peak's Southeastern Association for Research and Astronomy (SARA) Telescope was recently featured in the WIPB-PBS documentary, "Seeing Stars in Indiana". The project followed SARA astronomers from Ball State University to the observatory and featured time-lapse images from various points around Kitt Peak.[6][7]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). "Kitt Peak National Observatory". Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  2. ^ "Astronomy development on another sacred mountain: Kitt Peak". Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  3. ^ "The Spacewatch Project". Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  4. ^ "Kitt Peak Visitor Center & Museum: Nightly Observing Program - Program Description". Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  5. ^ "Kitt Peak Visitor Center & Museum: Advanced Observing Program - Introduction". Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  6. ^ Kevin Grazioli. "Seeing Stars in Indiana". Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  7. ^ Seeing Stars In Indiana (Adobe Flash Player) (in English). 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]