Kitt Peak National Observatory Tucson AZ Update
The Changing Role For The Kitt Peak National Observatory Begins
Kitt Peak National Observatory – A Changing Role
Kitt Peak National Observatory is discovering a new role in the research of the universe. Since its beginnings in mid 1950’s, Kitt Peak observatory has been at the top of the list as the National Observatory.
In 2013, the National Science Foundation stopped funding its telescopes on Kitt Peak. This action has raised considerable concern about the future of this Tucson AZ landmark. At the time, words such as mothballing, shuttering and even demolishing the facilities were being spoken.
In part, the downfall of the Kitt Peak National Observatory has been urban light pollution. While Tucson has long had policies on low lighting, Phoenix has not. The size of Phoenix and the amount of light pollution it creates has had an adverse impact on Kitt Peak.
Over the last 20 years or so, Kitt Peak has relinquished its once per-eminent position in astronomy to the higher, darker, drier sites in Hawaii and Chile. These two areas are where large telescopes have been built and the giant telescopes of the future will be located.
The National Scientific Foundation staff is moving to Boulder, Colorado and observatory operations shift to a new telescope in Hawaii in 2018. The NSF’s new telescope will be in Maui on Haleakala Peak.
The NSO has removed its SOLIS instrument from the mountain already. SOLIS stands for Synoptic Optical Long Tern Investigation of the Sun, by the way.
Other telescopes, some privately owned, will be relocated to Chile as part of other programs. While some are gone, there is still a sizable collection of telescopes at the Kitt Peak National Observatory location. At least three of them will be getting upgraded instruments to work on long term projects.
New Role Of The Kitt Peak National Observatory
So in the face of adversity, a new future is being created. NASA and the Department of Energy have initiated programs for at least two of the large telescopes on the mountain. Additional opportunities are being pursued by the managers.
The University of Arizona has also come to the rescue of the Tucson observatory. The U of A has relocated a radio telescope to Kitt Peak National Observatory. That telescope will be used along with a smaller telescope will be part a new U of A program.
The opportunity for new life at the Kitt Peak National Observatory has been welcomed news in the world of astronomy. It is believed the telescopes NSF has stopped funding will continue to work on important programs for decades.
While the Kitt Peak National Observatory was once the prominent place for the exploration of space by astronomers, it will be taking on a new role. New Federal funding by NASA, the Department of Energy and the University of Arizona will provide new opportunities to advance science. This long standing landmark in the Tucson area will, hopefully, continue to bring recognition to southern Arizona.
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