The Kitt Peak Virtual Tour


Photo Album
Astronomical images are no longer captured on photo-sensitive glass plates. Facilities such as the Mayall Telescope rely instead upon electronic cameras equipped with a charge-coupled device or CCD. This silicon chip can record the faint image produced a telescope over a long exposure. Color pictures such as these showing nebula are produced by combining multiple monochrome images of red, blue, and green light.

Radiation from hot stars within the Lagoon Nebula excites hydrogen gas, which then glows in red light. This emission nebula, also known as Messier object 8 (M8) and NGC 6523, is 6500 light years away in the constellation Sagittarius.

This image was taken with the 4-meter Mayall Telescope in 1973.


The Dumbbell Nebula (M27, NGC 6853) is a planetary nebula in the constellation Vulpecula at a distance of 850 light years. This false color image was made by combining two CCD frames, each processed to correct for detector sensitivity variations.

The Mayall Telescope captured this picture in 1988.


The Ring Nebula (M57, NGC 6720), another planetary nebula, is a spherical shell of glowing gas emitted from a hot central star visible in the center of the ring. This nebula is 3000 light years away in the constellation Lyra.

This photograph was taken in 1974 with the Mayall Telescope.


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While glass plates capture less than 15% of the light that strike them, CCDs can acquire nearly 95% of the light they receive.


A 4 by 4 inch CCD has approximately 4.2 million light collecting pixels compared to a count of 400,000 for a videotape camera.


NOAO was founded at a special meeting of the Board of Directors of AURA, Inc., in Chicago on Nov. 3-4, 1982. The Board voted to consolidate all AURA managed, ground based observatories under a single Director, including KPNO, CTIO, and NSO.

The book "AURA and Its US National Observatories," by Frank Edmonson, 1997, gives additional details.

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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.