There, we had some snacks and fed the fairly aggressive Mexican Blue
Jays that were not shy of people. These birds are aggressive enough
to snatch food items off someone’s hands.
The weather was very pleasant and cool, not bad for a summer day. A
light cool breeze would occasionally blow by. The sky was all blue with
hardly any cloud cover.
This would change later in the day as ominous
monsoon clouds started to form in the horizon.
The 360 degree views of the surrounding area was excellent as the air
was very clear due to the heavy rains of the past few days.
The tour of the telescopes started promptly at 10:00AM. Each guided tour
costs $2 per person. We all made the mistake of putting in our $2 in the
donation box in-front of the entrance to the visitor center. We found
out later that payment for the tour is separately handled at the
cashier. The cashier was kind enough to give us the tour for free since
we already put in our $2 in the donation box.
We all learned a lot from the tours. We learned that Kitt Peak was
picked as the location of the national observatory from among many
hundreds of possible locations in the country. It was picked because it
had the most clear and calm days. It was far enough from major urban
areas (away from light pollution) but close enough to an urban area with
an airport and an institution of higher learning to provide the
necessary talent pool.
The solar telescope at Kitt Peak is a long tunnel dug deep into the side
of the mountain. It had specialized mirrors that reflect sunlight into
spectrometers that analyze the sun’s light spectra.
The second tour of the 2.1 meter telescope showed us how an optical telescope
works and how advanced technology has made an astronomer’s life easier.