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Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Dark Skies Discovery Program Starts @ Kitt Peak

Information on the stars &
 planets we look at tonight
 will be posted at

Lucas & Carmen are our instructors. Roy is working with a separate group.

Lucas introduces himself,
gives us a brief history of
Kitt Peak Observatory.

Prior to the 1950s, research astronomers had limited access to telescopes to conduct experiments.  As the Cold War heated up, astronomers lobbied the federal government for funds to build a research facility accessible to all astronomers.

Over 100 mountains in the western U.S. were investigated and Kitt Peak had the best conditions for studying the heavens. Kitt Mountain is on the Tohono O'odham Reservations.  The tribal elders were asked to lease the land at Kitt Peak for research, and they declined to share this sacred land with outsiders.

The elders were invited a college to speak with astronomers about their experiments.  They toured research facilities and changed their minds about leasing Kitt Peak.  Stipulations include:  Only scientific research is to be done on the mountain.  Tribal members have first preference in hiring and tribal crafts are sold in the Gift Shop.

In 1958, the lease with the Tohono O'odham Nation was signed and telescopes were built on the on the mountaintop.

Lucas gives us an overview of this evening's activities.  We will start by watching the sunset.

Carmen, in the yellow hat,
walks our group through
a sunset.

There's a lot that goes on during a sunset.

We see yellow splash
across the Mayall


... & orange because the sun's

SARA Observatory is shared by 10 colleges and universities.  Each Astronomy Department uses the telescope remotely.  

The sun doesn't dip below the
horizon, the Earth's rotation
obscures the sun as it goes
through its daily revolution.

The western sky fills with
yellow, orange & red.

The eastern sky is
pink & blue...

The pink is clouds.

The grayish blue near the
bottom of the photo is

Looking back to the west...

is silhouetted against the sky.

My best sunset photo...

It's time to walk back to the Visitor Center and learn about star charts.

There will be no more pics from me....  Dark Skies Discovery Program doesn't allow photography outdoors after dark.  Astronomers are running experiments with the telescopes and stray light from camera and cellphone screens can wreck the night's experiment.  

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