The Kitt Peak Virtual Tour


Constructed in the early 1960s and seeing first light on September 15, 1964, the 2.1-meter (84-inch) telescope was one of the earliest Kitt Peak telescopes. The telescope is used for both imaging and spectroscopy.

The history of the 2.1-meter includes many important discoveries in astrophysics, such as indications of very distant clouds of hydrogen gas, known as the Lyman-alpha forest, the first gravitational lens, the first pulsating white dwarf. It has also been used to imagie planetary nebula such as the Ring Nebula, and in the first comprehensive study of the binary sequence of solar type stars.

The visitor gallery is open to the public and offers an interior view of the telescope.


This telescope is equipped with a slumped Pyrex primary mirror, one of the first of its kind, weighing 3,000 lbs and polished to 4 millionths of an inch. The mirror is coated with reflective aluminum at a thickness of one thousandth of a human hair. Its relatively fast focal ratio, f/2.63, allows a relatively fast Cassegrain focus. A short telescope tube and a small, inexpensive dome characterize telescope designs of that era. The 2.1-meter telescope has an equatorial mounting with an axis at 32 degrees.

The white cylinder at the bottom of the telescope is Phoenix, a new, world-class, high resolution infrared spectrograph.

The ancillary shed, to the left, houses a separate mirror used to send light to the Coudé Spectrograph a large optical spectrograph used primarily for stellar observing. This facility is known as the Coudé Feed.  
  The 2.1-meter was originally equipped with an imaging camera, and several spectrographs. Instrumentation rapidly evolved to include such instruments as the Intensified Image Dissector Scanner, the Video Camera, and IR photometers. Current instrumentation includes modern IR array cameras and spectrometers, the GoldCam Spectrograph (with a CCD incorporated into the original Gold Spectrograph), a CCD imager and the Phoenix infrared spectrometer.

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NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc. under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. The Kitt Peak Virtual Tour is developed and maintained by the NOAO Educational Outreach Office.

Copyright © 1999 The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. All Rights Reserved.