The Kitt Peak Virtual Tour



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Why Research Astronomy?


The mountain was named by George J. Roskruge, who arrived in the Arizona Territory in 1874. As Pima County Surveyor, he named the mountain Kitt Peak in honor of his sister Philippa (Roskruge) Kitt who came to Arizona on his insistence.


Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a consortium of educational and other non-profit institutions that operates world class astronomical observatories that are termed "centers."

Their members are 29 U.S. institutions and 5 international affiliates.

AURA acts on behalf of science communities that are served by these centers, and as trustees and advocates for the centers' missions.



How does NOAO get its funding?

Here is the answer explained.


Selected in 1958 as the site for a national observatory for ground-based optical astronomy, Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) is home to the world's largest collection of telescopes.

Located high above the Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, Kitt Peak has twenty-five optical and two radio telescopes and offers astronomers some of the finest observing in the world.

Kitt Peak National Observatory is administered by the the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), and receives funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) under contract with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).

NOAO currently maintains three observatory sites: Kitt Peak National Observatory, the National Solar Observatory (NSO) with facilities on Kitt Peak and Sacramento Peak in southern New Mexico, and Cerro Tololo Intern-American Observatory (CTIO) which is located in Chile at the southern end of the Atacama Desert.

The mission of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory is to advance United States astronomy. As a national center for optical astronomy, NOAO fulfills a three-fold role:

  • To provide major telescope facilities for the nation's astronomers.
  • To encourage the continuance of a strong research program by resident scientific staff.
  • To develop new and innovative observing facilities and instrumentation.

Kitt Peak National Observatory operates the Mayall 4-meter, the 2.1-meter, and Coudé Feed, and the 0.9-meter. NOAO operates the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on behalf of the WIYN Consortium, comprised of the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, Yale University and NOAO.

The National Solar Observatory facilities on Kitt Peak include the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, the world's largest solar telescope, and the Kitt Peak Vacuum Telescope.

Other institutions lease space for the operation of telescopes on Kitt Peak from the National Science Foundation, including the University of Arizona, Case Western University, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the MDM Observatory (University of Michigan, Dartmouth College, Ohio State University, and Columbia University), and the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA).

Observing time on NOAO telescopes is awarded twice a year for the nighttime telescopes, and quarterly for the solar telescopes. Observing proposals are submitted to a committee of scientists and time is awarded to both visiting and staff astronomers on the basis of the observing proposal's merit.

NOAO staff astronomers carry out individual programs of research and participate in the development and testing of new instruments and the maintenance and improvements of existing telescopes.



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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.