Kitt Peak

September 17, 2015
Chris Moreland

National Optical Astronomy Observatory at Kitt Peak 

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Reservations: 520-318-8726

Selected in the 1958 as the site for a national observatory for ground-based astronomy, Kitt Peak houses the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes.

Kitt Peak is located on the Tohono O’Odham Reservation.  The National Science Foundation has a lease with the Tribal Council for use of 200 acres of the mountaintop under a perpetual agreement that is valid as long as scientific research is conducted.  (Facilities are maintained at the site.)

The mission of the National Observatory is to advance United States astronomy.  Kitt Peak provides major facilities for astronomers and scientists from all over the world to conduct astronomical research.  The world’s largest Solar Telescope can be found on Kitt Peak.  It is operated by the National Solar Observatory, which studies the sun, and observes the stellar phenomena of our closest star, as well as distant galaxies and quasars.

Kitt Peak is open to the public daily, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; and closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days.  The visitor center is open 9:00 a.m.4:00p.m.

There is a charge for telescope tours.  Tours begin at the visitor center, and last approximately one hour. During regular hours, visitors are welcome to take free, self-guided tours of Kitt Peak.

Visitor galleries offering interior views of the facilities are available at several of the telescopes, along with exhibits.  Information on group tours or special programs, including Nightly Observing Program and Advanced Observing Program for the public, and the Kitt Peak Docent Program, is available through the visitor center.  Reservations are required for nighttime programs.

Kitt Peak is located 56 miles southwest of Tucson via State Route 86; approximately one hour and 30 minutes driving time from Tucson.

The summit of Kitt Peak is at an elevation of 6,875 feet.  People with cardiac and respiratory concerns should be aware that the walking paths to several telescopes are steep.

Temperatures on Kitt Peak are 10-20 degrees cooler than in Tucson.  Visitors should come prepared with warm clothing.  No food or gas facilities are available at Kitt Peak.  Wheelchairs and handicapped-accessible restrooms are located in the visitor center.  There is a public picnic area on the mountain.

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