January 30, 2017.
I think I’ve decided what to be when I grow up — a docent at Kitt Peak in Arizona. I may have to go back to school for a while, but it would be worth it. We’ve done many tours, with enthusiastic, knowledgeable guides, but each time I thought that, given a little time, I could absorb and repeat what they were sharing. Not here, though.
These folks have backgrounds in engineering and astronomy. Not only are they able to explain the history of this facility, they are up on current projects and how Kitt Peak figures into them. More importantly, they can help you and I understand where we fit into our universe.
The Kitt Peak Observatory is about 7K feet above sea level. We can put scopes higher, but if we do the people making observations get less lucid. Heck, we can even put them into space, like the Hubble. But there is still a need for scopes here on Earth.
One of the more impressive arrays just points at our own sun. Boring, you say. But these three lenses are used non-stop each day to study our nearest stellar neighbor, the source of all our energy.
The lenses are coated with a micron of aluminum. This is done under the football stadium at the University of Arizona in nearby Tucson. The aluminum is vaporized under exacting conditions. Lenses from all over the world are brought here for the process.
Has anything really important been discovered here? Well, some upstart chick astronomer accepted a routine assignment to measure the rotation pattern of our nearest inter-galactic neighbor, Andromeda. She observed, unexpectedly, that the stars’ revolutions seemed governed by some unseen force. Her male colleagues scoffed at her findings.
Later it was confirmed that the galaxy was revolving around some invisible gravitational force — “dark matter”. Further study confirmed that there is “dark energy” in our universe. It seems now that over 90% of what we experience is composed of dark matter and energy we cannot observe or measure.
Just before publishing this post we ran into van-dweller and astronomer Arthur Eigenbrot. He said he had studied a galaxy at Kitt Peak using the 3.5 meter telescope. He’s working on releasing sections of his thesis for publication. The galaxy he studied was 30 million light years away. Here is a link to his blog www.eigenspace.me.
**** All pics are click to enlarge.