Kitt Peak National Observatory is closed to visitors

We’re aware that many people are eager to come visit Kitt Peak by car, bicycles or even on foot. The public Arizona State Route 386 up to Kitt Peak National Observatory is still closed by ADOT while it makes necessary repairs to the road and guard rails after damage from the Contreras Fire. For this reason, all public programs and tours, including online workshops, at KPNO are suspended due to the effects of the Contreras Fire on the site. 

Arizona State Route 386 up to KPNO remains closed to the public. Do not travel up this road for any reason or by any means. Access is limited only to staff and contractors due to safety concerns related to missing road guardrails, rapidly occurring rainfalls, and fire debris runoff during the monsoon season. 

Together with the Arizona Department of Transportation we continue to work to make the site safe so public visits can restart. We hope to have news about the reopening of the visits in December 2022. Please revisit this website periodically for updates.

Self-Guided Tours

Self-guided Tour maps are available for purchase in the Visitor Center Gift Shop. Visitors are permitted to walk around observatory grounds during the Visitor Center’s normal hours of operation. Visitors are allowed to enter facilities marked for visitor entrance. Because Kitt Peak is a working research facility, visitors should stay on paved roads and walking areas. Please do not enter any facilities not marked for visitors.

These programs are free to members of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Guided Tours

Three guided tours are offered daily. Each tour, led by a docent, visits one of the large, historic telescopes of Kitt Peak.

10:00 AM McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope

11:30 AM 2.1-Meter Telescope

1:30 PM 4-Meter Mayall Telescope

Telescopes are occasionally closed to the public for maintenance. The Visitor Center does its best to alert visitors of any changes to the regularly scheduled tours.

VIP Tours

VIP tours are held once a month or by request. Monthly tours are held on the second Saturday of the month, and reservations can be made online. VIP Tours take an extended behind-the-scenes look at the telescopes of Kitt Peak, including visits to telescopes not normally open to the public.

Please note: VIP Tours last 5 hours and involve extensive walking and stair climbing. Unfortunately, many telescope facilities will be difficult or impossible for some mobility aids to access. Facilities visited during VIP tours may change depending on telescope maintenance schedules.

Daytime School and Private Group Tours

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Private tours of Kitt Peak may be scheduled for groups of 10 or more. These docent-led tours will begin with a brief introductory talk about Kitt Peak, and then head to one of the following telescopes; the McMath-Pierce solar telescope, the Mayall 4-meter telescope, or the 2.1-meter telescope. Private tours can be scheduled Monday through Friday, between 10:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.  The Visitor Center and Gift Shop are wheelchair-accessible and feature a handicapped-accessible restroom.  However, most of the telescope domes visited during the tours are not wheelchair-accessible and require climbing one or more staircases.

Public Solar Observing

Looking at the Sun is dangerous without the proper filters to reduce its brightness. The Visitor Center has an array of telescopes specially designed for observing the Sun.

Our visible light filter, reduces the brightness of the Sun by 99.99%, leaving the image of the Sun just bright enough to see sunspots.

Our second solar telescope views the solar atmosphere by only allowing a very narrow range of red light called Hydrogen-Alpha through. As a result we see prominences, filaments, and more. These views reveal the Sun to be dynamic, intricately detailed, and ever changing.

Free solar viewing occurs when weather and docent staffing permit. You can find the solar observing telescopes in SOLARIO, a small observatory adjacent to the Visitor Center patio.

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