The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Some Pics From An Evening on Kitt Peak

I was up on Kitt Peak for a private event last night. It was held at the picnic area and I had never had the opportunity to take night pics from there so I snuck away a couple of times to get some shots.  The picnic area is located by the Very Large Baseline Array (VLBA) dish. The VLBA is a network of 10 identical radio telescopes stretching from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Hawaii. The observations from all the scopes are combined to give the resolution of one big scope about 5,000 miles across. The VLBA dish is right behind the picnic area (if you visit Kitt Peak, go to the picnic area to get the best view of the dish!)

Sunset was a little hazy, but I noticed a temperature boundary as the Sun was setting. Note the small mock mirage (the little piece of the Sun breaking off at the top) that formed. I saw a couple of others in the process of forming, but they were small and the small ones are difficult to time your pics to get them (unlike the big ones I got a few weeks ago!)

You might notice it looks a little hazy out there. Lots of haze scatters shorter wavelength light making a green flash less prominent, but didn’t totally obscure it tonight.

Shortly after sunset, there was a nice gathering in the west. The crescent Moon was joined by (from left to right) Mercury, Pollux and Castor.

After it got dark, I walked by over to the VLBA dish and got a shot of a nice starry sky behind it. Look closely and you can see the 4 meter telescope dome in the background. The lights you see behind the mountain come from Tucson, over 50 miles away.

Finally, as it got darker, the summer Milky Way rose above the eastern horizon. I had to look southeast to see it and couldn’t find a trial to get the VLBA dish in the foreground that didn’t lead off the side of the mountain. I still got the four meter and a couple of others in this one. The tree in the foreground was illuminated by light coming from the bathroom window. I went inside to try and turn out the lights and there was no light switch! I assume the mountain staff know how to turn it off, but seems like a design oversight to not give people the option to turn it off themselves! Fortunately, it wasn’t too bright at this distance to hamper the photography and in the end, I kind of like the way the tree came out.


June 23, 2012 - Posted by | Astrophotography, Kitt Peak

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