Shooting the Stars Over Arizona's Kitt Peak (Photos)
The constellation Orion and Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, can be spotted in this shot, taken by's Megan Gannon in front of the MDM Observatory's 2.4-meter Hiltner telescope atop Kitt Peak in the Arizona desert on March 17, 2014.
Credit: Megan Gannon News Editor Megan Gannon is following Columbia University astronomers and students on a Spring Break astronomy trip at the MDM Observatory atop Kitt Peak in the Arizona desert. The view of the night sky there is quite different than the view in New York City, where is based, as she explains here:

KITT PEAK, Ariz. - This week, I spent my first night under the stars at Kitt Peak in southern Arizona, where I'm following a group of astronomers and their students on an observing trip. I'm a skywatching neophyte and a worse photographer, but I braved 20 mph winds (and my own jetlag) to set up a tripod outside to try to capture some bright spots of the sky.

  • Transit of Venus
  • Total Solar Eclipse
  • A Spectacular Comet
  • Total Lunar Eclipse
  • Complete Solar System Planetary Alignment
  • A Dazzling Meteor Shower
In the early evening, I aimed my camera in the direction of the Orion constellation, trying out different exposure lengths and aperture sizes. I kept looking over my left shoulder wondering what that orange light was on the eastern horizon. I thought it was a city until a rounded edge of the moon emerged above the clouds.

No matter how many times I see a moonrise it always surprises me. I didn't get any good pictures of the moon itself, but it provided a nice backlight for the suite of observatories perched at the top of Kitt Peak.

Kitt Peak National Observatory and the night sky as seen on the night of March 17, 2014 by's Megan Gannon at Kitt Peak, Arizona.
Kitt Peak National Observatory and the night sky as seen on the night of March 17, 2014 by's Megan Gannon at Kitt Peak, Arizona.
Credit: Megan Gannon

After the sun set last night, a familiar parade of bright stars and planets arrived in the sky. Jupiter popped out of the twilight first, then Sirius (the brightest star in the night sky), then Betelgeuse and Rigel and the other members of Orion.

The spectacle often stops there in New York, but I soon found it difficult to keep track of all the newly emerging lights. I don't think I'd mind switching to a nocturnal schedule here (that is, if it weren't also 75 degrees F and sunny with clear views across hundreds of miles of rugged terrain during the day).

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