Saturday, January 26, 2013

A (Kitt) Peak Experience

My day started out as planned.



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. 

Show-Off

At the end of another wonderful day, goodnight from the Casino Del Sol. 



15 comments:

  1. Well? it was my plan to go... but went another way. glad you went and the pictures and story... good stuff. I love that kind of stuff and there was another reason I decided to go another way...

    seems it was a star party or something like that... my driving at night was a huge factor in not going because the nearest place to spend the night ... if I stayed and saw the star show ... was too far away

    rats... this getting old business... sigh

    LOVE your breakfast! and absolutely!~ when I eat a good protein fulfilling breakfast ... the only reason I'll eat later is because I have fat cells... dirty rotten low down fat cells

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    1. Not sure I would want to drive up and down that mountain at night. It's a well-surfaced road but between the narrowness of it and the rock slides .... On the way down, I saw big rocks in in the road in several spots that weren't there on the way up. Really big rocks. Yikes!

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  2. Funny, the better the breakfast, the hungerier I get later.

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  3. I'm with you on heights. Congrats on mastering that today!

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    1. Thanks Cyn. Weird that heights are becoming less terrifying as I get older. But then, as I said, I wasn't afraid of them until about my mid-20's.

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  4. I would have loved to tour the observatory. I'm sure my mouth would have been hanging open, too.

    The rainbow was perfect!

    Sounds like the little Roadtrek handled the nasty weather and wind just fine!

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    1. The GDB handled herself just great. I'm so proud of her abilities!

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  5. Don't think I'd want to be driving in 71 mph winds. :O

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    1. Me neither! That was one gust recorded at the summit. It was windy but not un-drivable. Funny though, motoring to the top, I felt myself leaning waaaay forward in the driver's seat - as if that would help propel the GDB up and up.

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  6. When my husband was in college at the University of Arizona in the early 60's, he worked at Kitt Peak. One day, they brought in a huge machine and installed it in the basement - and turned him loose with it. It was a - C OM P U T E R. He taught himself to program it, thus starting his career with computers and space.

    He has soooo many stories of the nights on the mountain.

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    1. Oh wow. Does he ever go back to visit? I know the docents and the visitors would love to hear his stories.

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  7. Very interesting day, from the great breakfast to the steep roads, bad weather, new information, and finally a rainbow. I love days like that.

    That has to be the most arms I've seen on a Saguaro. Did you count them? I see 18, including (I think)two that look like they are pointing down near the ground. :)

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    1. Yes, that was an impressive specimen alright!

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  8. Nope, Wouldn't get me driving up that high in such weather conditions ! But I am a wuss afterall ! LOL

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