Got my money’s worth. It’s 7 PM as I post .... and I’m still not hungry!
It was a less-than-optimal day to make the trip to Kitt Peak Observatory. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience so very much. I waited until the rain cleared out last this morning before making the 32-mile drive.
|My destination - waaaay up there.|
|See the road in the middle distance? That was just the beginning.|
The last 12 miles is straight up the mountain and I was quite suddenly surrounded by dense fog accompanied by high winds and rain. One of the observatory employees clocked a wind gust at 71 MPH. However fog, as it turns out, has its advantages. I’ve had a fear of heights since my mid-20s and the pea soup that enveloped everything prevented me from seeing the 5000 ft. climb up the side of this massive mountain. And the 5000 ft. drop.
But it was worth the trip, even factoring in the crappy weather. I was able to tour the 2.1 meter telescope with about a dozen others. Our most excellent docent, Jerry, is a retired electrical engineer and an impressive and compelling source of cosmic information. At one point I realized, quite literally, my mouth was hanging open!
The winds were howling and the rain pounding down as our group hurriedly made our way to one of the 26 telescopes. Pity the poor scientists who have this night scheduled for their long-planned observations!
Much knowledge about the universe has been gathered in this place. Shortly after the facility opened in 1964, Vera Rubin, one of the few female astronomers at that time, began her research career measuring how quickly spiral galaxies (like our own and, in this particular case, Andromeda) were spiraling.
It was thought at the time that the motion was much like a shower drain, with the stars closest to the center moving the quickest. Dr. Rubin determined that, in fact, the speed of the stars' movement is uniform Over time, her findings led to the discovery of dark matter.
Jerry says Dr. Rubin is retired now but still returns to this observatory where she did her most important work. She will often join the tours and answer questions.Halfway through the descent down the mountain, the weather cleared and this rainbow appeared.
The valley in which Tucson sits was looking all partly-sunny and dry. The extremes made for an interesting meteorological experience.
At the end of another wonderful day, goodnight from the Casino Del Sol.