Kitt Peak National Observatory
Here in the Sonoran Desert, we’re lucky to have some of the darkest skies in the country within our gorgeous hinterland. And as a guest at the Westin La Paloma, you’re not far from one of the world’s best places to explore the heavens: Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Situated 7,000 feet up the namesake “sky-island” summit in the Quinlan Mountains on the Tohono O’odham Reservation, this astronomical facility—run by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO)—boasts the biggest collection of optical and radio telescopes on Earth.
From scrutinizing near-Earth asteroids to shedding “light” onto dark matter through the investigation of spiral galaxies, some heady research has gone down up here—and Kitt Peak astronomers continue to conduct vital work peering into the depths of the universe, day in and day out.
Touring Kitt Peak National Observatory During the Day
During the day, you can take a gander at three of the Observatory’s research telescopes: the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope (the biggest anywhere), the 2.1-Meter Telescope (which went into service in 1964 and recorded some major astronomical breakthroughs), and the 4-Meter Mayall Telescope (Kitt Peak’s biggest optical telescope). Daytime visitors can also study our home star through special observing equipment and admire the dazzling panoramic views Kitt Peak affords.
Nighttime Up on Kitt Peak: Dark Sky Extravaganza
As you might imagine, an after-hours experience up on Kitt Peak is particularly rewarding. The Observatory offers an array of Nighttime Programs, from introductory stargazing aimed at beginners and families to more advanced offerings for small groups. You can even enjoy a private, customized dark-sky immersion courtesy of the Overnight Telescope Observing Program.
The Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center
While tours and programs have fees, admission to the Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center—which includes several telescopes and a heliostat that displays a real-time image of the solar disk, sometimes featuring sunspots—is free.
Pay a Visit to Kitt Peak National Observatory From Your Perch at Westin La Paloma
The Kitt Peak National Observatory is open daily except for major holidays. It’s a truly extraordinary place to visit for anyone with even a passing interest in our solar system, our galaxy, and the broader universe; it’s also rewarding for the scenery and vistas of its desert mountainscape, and the cultural significance this mountaintop holds for the Tohomo O’odham people.
Resting in the lap of desert luxury at Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, you’re only about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Kitt Peak—so consider making the journey during your next visit! It’ll expand your perspective, to say the least…