Optical Valley - Tucson, Arizona

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Last updated 10/08/2008

Raw file: Optical Valley.gpx (78.63 KB)


Tucson, Arizona is known as “Optical Valley” and for good reason. Surrounding the city are four towering mountains that are home to professional telescopes and observatories of every size and shape. Claiming forty nine observatories, from a network of 11 cm (4 inch) wide field cameras detecting and discovering planets outside our own solar system, to the largest optical telescope in the world, the Large Binocular Telescope, with it’s two huge 8.4 meter (331 inch) side by side mirrors, probing the farthest reaches of the universe, Tucson is the world capital of Astronomy.

This POI file started out as a walking tour of Kitt Peak and that is still the major thrust. Kitt Peak is the mountain where the largest number of astronomical observatories, anywhere in the world exist. Visitors can freely walk the grounds and even enter three of the observatories to see the telescopes. At the McMath-Pierce Solar telescope, visitors can actually go INSIDE the telescope.

All of the POIs in this file have detailed information and the web page where one can find out more information about the telescope and the research it is performing as of October, 2008.

The National Optical Astronomical Observatory (NOAO) administers Kitt Peak. They provide three mp3 audio guides for the three telescopes visitors may enter. A GPSr user could download these mp3s and turn this POI file into a tour guide.

They are available here


The visitor’s map is here


After finishing the Kitt Peak POIs, I decided that this file should be complete, so I have added all of the other professional observatories that circle Tucson. In addition to Kitt Peak there are observatories on the tops of Mt. Lemmon, Mt. Hopkins and Mt. Graham. While none of these other facilities are usually open to the public, each site does have an official tour for a nominal fee. There are also public observing sessions at Kitt Peak, Mt. Lemmon & at the University of Arizona’s Stewart Observatory, on campus.

This file does not cover the multitude of commercial & amateur observatories, or the professional institutions & optical companies that blanket the region.


See also