Science of the Sunset

When you join us for an evening observing program on Kitt Peak, we have you run a tad early. We’re not allowed to have folks shinning automobile headlights in the direction of the telescopes, as the Visitor Center has crucially important responsibilities to protect and maintain the scientific integrity of the environment on the mountain-top. Suffice it to say that car headlights are outrageously brazen light pollution when even as far away as a mile down the road from an observatory.

There are advantages to you running early though. Firstly, you get to soak in during broad daylight what is truly a beautiful and majestic setting.  Not just the towering scientific institutions sprinkled about, but a verdant, bio-diverse ‘sky island’ landscape that surprises many after a 25 minute drive from the desert valley below.

But the main perk to your joining us before dark is the sunset transition to it, and the staggering near 7,000 foot vantage point that you’ve arrived at to spend the evening with us.  Not only will you soak in views of the gorgeous sacred tribal land of our gracious long-term landlords the Tohono O’odham Nation, but your Visitor Center guide will also talk with you about the science of sunset, and the effects our planet’s atmosphere has on the light shinning into it.

Check out the accompanying video to this blog for a little more info on the ‘scattering’ effect of light rays, and for an impressive and quite likely jaw-dropping gallery of photography from the peak! Kitt Peak National Observatory that is!

— Brian Robinson, Kitt Peak Visitor Center Guide

Check out this video for a taste of the science of the sunset, as well as jaw-dropping photography of the peak at sunset! Kitt Peak National Observatory that is!

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To help prevent the spread of the virus causing Covid-19, we have closed the observatory and the mountain road to the public, and cancelled all upcoming public programs. Please do not travel up the mountain road for any reason, or by any means. If you are scheduled for programs in the next few months, please check back before traveling to Arizona, or traveling up the mountain.

Headlights Are Not Allowed
on Kitt Peak After Dark

Kitt Peak is first and foremost a research facility. To avoid interfering with research during nighttime programs, the Visitor Center adheres to strict lighting control procedures. 

Your vehicle’s headlights will be covered. When you leave after any evening program, you will be guided by an observatory vehicle for one mile down the mountain road.  After that first mile, staff will remove the headlight covers for you. 

Guests may not leave the programs early except in cases of genuine emergency.  By making a reservation in any of our nighttime programs, you indicate your understanding of and willingness to abide by these procedures. 

No one may visit the observatory after 4:00 P.M. unless registered for a nighttime program.