Shooting the Stars Over Arizona's Kitt Peak (Photos)

Orion and Sirius Over Hiltner Telescope
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. (Image 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.

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. (Image 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).

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Megan Gannon Contributing Writer

Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity on a Zero Gravity Corp. to follow students sparking weightless fires for science. Follow her on Twitter for her latest project.