The Kitt Peak Virtual Tour




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The WIYN is a Ritchey-Chrétien telescope with an altitude-azimuth mounting. It saw first light (produced its first astronomical image) in 1994.

The telescope houses three mirrors.

The primary mirror has a diameter of 3.5 meters or 138 inches, with an edge thickness of 18 inches. Constructed of borosilicate glass at the University of Arizona's Mirror Laboratory, the primary weighs slightly over 2 tons at 4,320 lbs. The mirror is equipped with active mirror supports and thermal controls.

The secondary mirror is 1.2 meters across, weighs 263 lbs and was fabricated at Schott Glass and Contraves.

Finally, the tertiary mirror, measuring 1.2 meters by 0.8 meters flat, weighs 132 lbs. It was fabricated at Schott and Kodak.

The small, lightweight enclosure is well ventilated to follow nighttime ambient temperature. Instruments attached to the telescope allows the WIYN to gather data and capture vivid astronomical images routinely of sub-arc second quality.

The WIYN telescope has a CCD imager mounted to one of its Nasmyth ports. The imager is a mosaic of Charge Coupled Device silicon chips, or CCDs, larger and more light sensitive than those found in video and 35 mm digital cameras.

The WIYN also has a multi-fiber spectrograph known as Hydra mounted to its second Nasmyth port. A spectrograph separates starlight according to wavelength to produce a spectrum. Spectroscopic analysis is used to determine the elements that make up the star and to ascertain the star's temperature, for example. The Hydra can obtain the spectra for up to one hundred stars simultaneously.

Active optics hardware on the
back of the primary mirror, as shown here, shape the mirror perfectly, insuring the telescope is focused precisely

The total moving weight of the WIYN telescope and its instruments is 35 tons.

The WIYN's 3.5 meter primary mirror weighs 2 tons, while the Mayall's older 4 meter mirror is 15 tons.



Professional astronomers (ans many amateurs) do not observe with one opened eye fixed at the eyepiece of a telescope. Although that technique is still used by some amateurs in local astronomy clubs and schools, astronomers using powerful telescopes employ computers.


What is it like to use a telescope?

An astronomer responds!!


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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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