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Astronomy Tourism: Photos from Arizona's Kitt Peak Observatories

Kitt Peak National Observatory

Megan Gannon

The Kitt Peak National Observatory is about 50 miles outside of Tucson on a remote mountaintop that rises high above the Sonoran Desert. Just below the summit, the 4-meter Mayall telescope is the largest optical telescope on the mountain. It was completed in 1970.

Kitt Peak National Observatory

Megan Gannon

Kitt Peak, southern Arizona, is valued as an observing site for its dark skies. This image shows the moon, as seen on March 18, 2014, from MDM Observatory.

Night Sky on Kitt Peak

Megan Gannon

A jet plane photobombs a nighttime shot of the sky taken from Kitt Peak on March 19, 2014.

Kitt Peak's Night Sky

Megan Gannon

Jet planes leave their mark on the nighttime sky as the zodiacal light glows behind the 1.3-meter telescope at MDM Observatory at Kitt Peak on March 19, 2014.

MDM Observatory

Megan Gannon

This dome houses the 1.3-meter McGraw Hill telescope at the MDM Observatory, which is about a mile down the road from the NSF-funded Kitt Peak National Observatory. MDM is operated by a consortium of universities, including Columbia, Dartmouth, Ohio State and the University of Michigan.

Mosaic Imager

Megan Gannon

Technicians must fill the Mosaic imager inside of Kitt Peak's 4-meter Mayall telescope with liquid nitrogen to keep it cold.

Small Solar Array

Megan Gannon

A tiny dome where visitors to Kitt Peak can safely look at the sun through filters.

Inside the Mayall Telescope Dome

Megan Gannon

As astronomers get ready for a night's work on March 18, 2014, vents open on the dome of Kitt Peak's 4-meter Mayall telescope to keep the machinery about the same temperature as the air outside.

The Giant Mayall Telescope

Megan Gannon

The 4-meter Mayall telescope is housed in an enormous 18-story building at the top of Kitt Peak, some 6,800 feet high. Before sunset on March 18, 2014, the dome opens to the skies in preparation for a night of observing.

McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope

Megan Gannon

Astronomers at Kitt Peak can shoot hoops in the shadow of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, the largest unobstructed-aperture optical telescope in the world. The huge diagonal tunnel where the sun's light comes in is about 500 feet long; much of it is buried inside the mountain.

Inside the Solar Telescope

Megan Gannon

A view down the long underground tunnel of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, part of the National Solar Observatory.

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