Our family thoroughly enjoyed this Must Do tour at night. We did the Nightly Observing Program... read more
Our family thoroughly enjoyed this Must Do tour at night. We did the Nightly Observing Program... read more
We had been to Kitt Peak 40+ years ago during the day. We were there late in the day so didn't get... read more
So unfortunately it was a cloudy night and we weren't able to use the telescopes or binoculars. So here's what we got to do: walk up to a high point and watch the sunset. This was beautiful and we were able to capture some great photos. Then we went back to the visitor center and the group split in half. Half stayed there and the guide remotely accessed his telescope in Colorado and showed us how he takes pictures of nebulas and galaxies. The other half walked up to one of the telescopes and was able to get a behind the scene tour and talk to the people who run the telescope. Normally people don't get to go in there. So that was pretty cool to see. Then the groups switched so you did get to do both. We want to go back when it is not cloudy so we can actually use the telescopes ourselves. The guide said the best time to go is in April or May where there is little chance of rain. Also, go a few days before or after a new moon. That is when he said would be the best viewing. For dinner, they gave you a turkey sandwich on a croissant, a bag of potato chips, a granola bar, a cookie, and a bottle of water.MoreShow less
Our family thoroughly enjoyed this Must Do tour at night. We did the Nightly Observing Program which is 4 hours long. You would not think that these 4 hours would go by so fast, but it did. It was a gorgeous evening and we had incredible weather for late October. There is a 20 degrees cooler difference from the bottom of the mountain. We brought our warm clothes and layered as needed for the 50 degree night, (hats, scarves, gloves, jackets). You are outside for the majority of the tour.
First you check in at the Visitor's Welcome Center where the gift shop is located. A short overview of the program is given then you start with your meal, (Croissant turkey sandwich, chips, cookie and a granola bar with water). After 30 minutes you are directed to see an incredible view of the sun setting. To see this happening from this elevation is incredible.
Our tour guides were excellent! Charles had us laughing with his humor while explaining what we were experiencing throughout the night. He was friendly, professional and it was evident that he had true passion for his job. He is very motivating!
After the sunset and explanation of the telescopes we broke out into 2 groups. We were taken to a dome where we got to view planets; Pluto, Mars, Saturn, constellations, dozens of shooting stars, satellites and the most incredible view of the milky way. Truly impressive!
The next portion we were given instruction on how to read the star guide. We were given binoculars and a brief presentation about the Greek Mythology and what we were going to see in the sky as it relates to the star guides. We faced the east side of the mountain and we witnessed a spectacular Moon rising over the Tucson city lights. This looked so breath taking as the moon rose. It was so bright and beautiful almost like you could touch it.
My family will always treasure this incredible memory of this night. We will definitely be back for another night tour. This is absolutely a top 10 things to do in Tucson!
We had been to Kitt Peak 40+ years ago during the day. We were there late in the day so didn't get to see much before they kicked us out. We vowed to someday go back and do a night sky thing. Well, this is it.
All the stars lined up (so to speak). During our planned visit, there was a new moon. Yea! And it was clear as a bell. And finally, our guide was wonderful. Knowledgeable. Informative. And engaging.
So, you begin the tour in the Visitor Center (I recommend coming a bit earlier so you can walk the area to see just how many telescopes there are up on the mountain). They have an on-going set of videos. Interesting, but get a bit old after awhile. They feed you a sandwich and chips (just OK). Then you are bussed up to one of the smaller observatories where for the next three hours you are wowed by looking at the night sky. Our guide was well prepared and knew what he wanted to show us. He moved along, but never rushed us. Each of our group (of seven) got to spend as much time looking through the telescope as we wanted. He focused on a variety of features - planets, nebula, galaxies, twin stars and more. At the end, he took us out to just gaze at the night sky. By then, it was fully dark and the sky was dusted with stars. He pointed out a number of constellations. The sky was amazing.
At the end, with headlights covered to avoid emitting any light, we slowly wound down the first mile off the mountain. A bit hairy, but fun. Then they took off the blinders and we were on our way.
Days later, my wife and I are still astounded at what we experienced. But beware, it can get cold up there. While we were prepared with coats, gloves and hats we got cold near the end.
If you’re driving the distance to get here, plan for the day and take the tour of all three telescopes as you will not be able to see inside any of the telescope buildings. Three telescopes are opened to the public and should plan to arrive by 10 AM to catch first tour to the Solar Telescope, if you want to see this telescope and that tour is not offered again that day. The other two tours (at 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM) will take you to one of the other telescopes. We were not able to look through these telescopes but were able to look through another smaller telescope at the sun. Each tour is preceded with a different introduction and can visit the museum between tours.
Pack a picnic as there is no restaurant, only snacks. Picnic tables are available as well as restroom facilities. The drive took us about 1.45 minutes and should follow the directions on the website and not plug in the name used on the Groupon into the GPS which will take you into a spot in the middle of the desert. It’s a nice easy drive out of the town and will pass an interesting “border” crossing enroute before continuing the climb up the mountain with many look-out points to catch the views.
Check out the mirror lab in Tucson where the largest telescope mirror is made to round out your astronomy telescope knowledge.
Daily tours given by volunteer docents. First tour @ 10:30. Tours last 1 hour. If u choose all 3 tours, you will be there from 10am-4pm. Gift shop on site w snacks, bottled water and coffee for purchase. There are restrooms, several tables and a couple picnic tables. U will need to pack a lunch if u do all 3 tours. No lunch provided. Elevation is 8,600 feet. Be prepared for a very steep drive up to Kitt Peak. Only 1 telescope bldg was open to the public. Penelope was our tour guide, great hostess.
I was hoping to see close-up views of planets through powerful telescopes. Instead the viewing was through a 20" lens (practically an antique!) and the images were like tiny comic strips. Would have been better off looking at images on the internet. The docent who lead this part of the tour wasn't forthcoming in teaching us to identify planets with the naked eye.
THe part of the tour showing how to view the constellations with binoculars was better, but was difficult to look upward in the dark and maintain one's balance at the same time.
My wife and I have just visited this site and we took all three tours ($11 for one and $13 for all three so if you have the time why would you not). The tours were lead by two extremely knowlegeable and helpful guides who made the experience a great pleasure. All three were extremely interesting and gave a really good insight into the illustrious history and current projects of the observatory. Even if you are not particularly interested in astronomy a visit would be well worthwhile because the location is stunning and the trip up the mountain is worth it in it's own right.
Kitt Peak National Observatory is about 1 hour's drive South West of Tucson. At night, driving back, you will pass through a checkpoint, so always have some kind of ID with you!
We did the Dark Sky Discovery tour, which is an evening/night tour including telescope time. It was fabulous!
It starts with a talk in the visitor center, a light supper (gluten free option available) and then we are taken to view the sunset along with a talk about some of the telescopes and their history that is around us.
Once it's dark, we then go in a small group (about 10 max) into one of the telescopes and we start to see some of the wonders in the night sky. We were using the 16" Ritchey-Chretien telescope and saw some great sights.
What you see depends on the time of year and any cloud cover - if it is known to be cloudy in advance the tour is cancelled around 2pm that day for a full refund. In our case, there were some clouds, but we worked around that and it did not spoil anything.
The staff are knowledgeable about everything and we had a great time!
The Kitt Peak National Observatory is a working observatory, so there is a procedure to go through to drive out at night, masking the headlights etc, but that all adds to the fun of it all!
Kiit Peak has some of the best views in the area. It's a short drive from Tuscon on the way to Sells (just west of Tuscon). At 6,0000 feet it provides expansive views in all directions. If you enjoy science and astronomy then you'll love this place. The museum at the top is very good and free.
Kitt Peak is a great half day trip. We left Tucson at 8:45, drove there took a walking tour and were back home by noon. There area several guided tours as well. Try to do the Solar telescope viewing during the day if open.
Planets, star clusters, nebulae and the milky way. What an extraordinary way to spend an evening laying my eyes upon these celestial sites.
I signed up for the beginner evening program that offers basic information, telescope viewing and binocular viewing. What I didn't anticipate was just how exhilarating the 1 mile drive down the mountain would be with red tape covering my headlights! For anyone who has night driving issues, this would not be a good activity.
In fact, in our group we had a woman using a cane, and the darkness, even with the red light from the flashlight we were given, must have been quite challenging for her. Thankfully she was with someone who could assist her.
It was very interesting to learn about how many telescopes were on the peak, and audio scopes, too - which I'd not heard of before. We learned about the design and the advances in technology over the years comparing a 30,000 pound mirror in the 4 meter telescope compared to roughly 4,000 pound mirror in the 3.5 meter scope.
How the heck did they get that 30,000 pound mirror up that mountain! Or even build the road to the top. Truly this place is a testament to the dedication people have for research.
It would have been nice to have a little bit of information about current research. With this being the only national observatory hosting so many researchers, I would have liked to have known something about what was going on. We were told that the visitor center was separate from the research going on, but surely there must be a way to even get a trickle of information to give the guides?
I really enjoyed the binocular viewing - and just being on the peak on a dark night was truly inspiring.
And did I mention that adventurous drive down the mountain! The first mile of which your headlights are taped in an effort to reduce light pollution. It made me feel like I was part of the exploratory mission. Hard to imagine the people who work there follow this procedure every night! That is some dedication.
- Bring or wear layers as the weather can change quite drastically.
- No, you won't be able to use your cell phone after sunset because of the white light.
- They offer a photography evening if you prefer that.
- There is only red, low lighting in the restroom.
- Conserve water! They only get it from snow and rain.