Southern Arizona Sights



Kitt Peak National Observatory

Kitt Peak National Observatory Review

Funded by the National Science Foundation and managed by a group of more than 20 universities, Kitt Peak National Observatory is part of the Tohono O'odham Reservation. After much discussion back in the late 1950s, tribal leaders agreed to share a small section of their 4,400 square miles with the observatory's telescopes. Among these is the McMath-Pierce, the world's largest solar telescope, which uses piped-in liquid coolant. From the visitors' gallery you can see into the telescope's light-path tunnel, which goes down hundreds of feet into the mountain. Kitt Peak scientists use these high-power telescopes to conduct vital solar research and observe distant galaxies.

The visitor center has exhibits on astronomy, information about the telescopes, and hour-long guided tours ($9.75 per person) that depart daily at 10, 11:30, and 1:30. Complimentary brochures enable you to take self-guided tours of the grounds, and there's a picnic area about 1.5 miles below the observatory. The observatory sells snacks and drinks, but there are no restaurants or gas stations within 20 miles of Kitt Peak. The observatory offers a nightly observing program ($49 per person); reservations are necessary.

Updated: 02-25-2013

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