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Kitt Peak National Observatory

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Management, Operations, and Associated Projects for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory  (AURA/National Optical Astronomy Observatories)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), founded in 1958, features a diverse collection of capabilities for optical and infrared astronomy. The observatory operates three major telescopes--the Mayall 4-meter, WIYN 3.5-meter, and 2.1-meter--and a 0.9-meter telescope on a mountain southwest of Tucson, Arizona, in the Schuk Toak District of the Tohono O'odham Nation. The telescopes are used by a large community of U.S. scientists and have contributed to studies of the birth and evolution of stars and planets, supernovae in distant galaxies, gamma ray bursts, the shapes of galaxies, and dark matter.

KPNO shares the Kitt Peak site in the middle of the Sonora Desert with the National Solar Observatory and with 19 other optical telescopes and two radio telescopes operated by other organizations. The high altitude, featuring relatively clear weather and low humidity, and low night-time light levels all contribute to successful viewing.

Kitt Peak National Observatory is part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

Education & Outreach

Kitt Peak National Observatory offers numerous opportunities for hands-on education and training.  The Visitor Center offers the public exhibits, guided tours, and night-time stargazing, as well as an online virtual tour. The facility also hosts open houses, public lectures, and a radio program for the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The observatory participates in the National Optical Astronomy Observatory's Project ASTRO and Hands-On Optics program, which bring astronomers and astronomy projects into the classroom. Other NOAO programs bring teachers and informal science educators to Kitt Peak for hands-on training in astronomy, astronomy research, adapative optics, and other technologies.

For higher education students, the observatory offers the opportunity to study and train with professional mentors--through NSF-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates, graduate student internships and research assistantships, co-op programs, and online courses.

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  • Aerial view of telescopes on Kitt Peak

Award Highlights Related to This Asset

night-sky image taken with fish-eye lens

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