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The 4-meter telescope is the largest optical telescope on Kitt Peak.

The Mayall Telescope saw first light on February 27, 1973.

Include a stop at the Mayall viewing gallery when you visit Kitt Peak.



Astronomy is the study of the universe, including objects at enormous distances from the Earth. Astronomers cannot yet visit another planet in our solar system, or conduct an experiment upon a faraway star.


What does an astronomer do?

An astronomer responds!


The 4-meter (158 inch) Nicholas U. Mayall Telescope was one of the largest optical telescopes in the world and is named for the former Director of the Kitt Peak National Observatory.

The eighteen story Mayall Telescope, located just below the summit of Kitt Peak at 6875 feet, can be seen from over fifty miles away.

Construction of the building to house the massive telescope began in 1968 and was completed in late 1970. The dedication was held three years later after completion of the telescope.

The dome weighs 500 tons and has a double shell structure, permitting it to withstand hurricane force winds of 120 miles per hour, .

In 1997, twenty-two vents were installed in the dome for improved air circulation and temperature control. This structural upgrade has resulted in the sharper imaging of astronomical objects such as planetary nebula and distant galaxies.

The building upon which the dome revolves is constructed of ten hexahedrons and has a height of 187 feet. The structure houses a viewing gallery that is open to the public, which includes a 360 degree view of the surrounding Sonoran Desert, .

The telescope's 15 ton primary mirror is polished to one millionth of an inch and has a reflective aluminum coating one thousandth the thickness of a human hair.

A blue "horseshoe" equatorial mounting positions and moves the 92 foot long telescope. The telescope is mounted on a concrete pier that is completely separate from both the building and the dome, although the telescope and dome move in unison.

The Mayall Telescope is equipped with a wide field imager camera, the CCD Mosaic, This camera has 8192 x 8192 pixels and produces color pictures of astronomical objects such as M 101, the Pinwheel Galaxy.

The Mayall Telescope is used primarily for infrared and faint visible light observations and has played an important role in many fields of research. The rotation curves of distant galaxies have been observed in order to determine the role of dark matter in the universe. Also, the 4-meter has helped to establish the dynamical structure of elliptical galaxies such as M87 and M49.




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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.

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