The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

A Night On Kitt Peak

Last night I was fortunate enough to accompany a U of Arizona student on a trip up Kitt Peak. He was trying to observe an exoplanet transit with the 0.9 meter telescope (he got data…has to analyze it to see if he saw the planet). We also took some pretty pictures (again, pending analysis) with the telescope.

Fortunately, there were times I could sneak outside with my camera and take some pics. The Moon was waxing gibbous so it’s light would dominate until it set. Fortunately, there are still interesting things you can photograph. Mars was at opposition last night so I took a couple of pictures of Mars and Spica as they rose over the domes.


As twilight ended, I setup  for a shot I have wanted to do for a long time. I walked down to the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. This famous telescope looks like the number 7 on its side. It is polar aligned which means that the tunnel points straight toward the north star (less than half the tunnel is above ground…it’s really a cool scope!) I set up my camera at the base of the telescope where the tunnel went underground and set my intervalometer to take a whole bunch of 30 second exposures which I then stacked to produce the star trails shown below. The one star at the tip of the telescope that stays still is the North Star.

McMath-Pierce Star TrailsI then went back to the 0.9 meter scope and setup  for a star trails shot pointing toward the 4 meter telescope. Some clouds started rolling in and I stopped after a while thinking my photo wouldn’t come out. I processed it anyway and the moving clouds created an interesting image. Maybe I should have kept taking more images to make the trails longer!

Star Trails over 4 meter clouds

Did some visual observing for a while and then after the Moon set, went for some images of the Milky Way rising.

IMG_1970 IMG_1974 IMG_1964

Great night, but got very little sleep…say, that sounds like a good idea.






April 10, 2014 - Posted by | Astrophotography, Pretty Pictures |


  1. Great photos! Well done!

    Comment by Mike Weasner | April 10, 2014 | Reply

  2. I’m especially envious of the star trails over the McMath-Pierce. I’ve thought of such a shot, but am always observing when on site.

    Comment by billkeel | April 11, 2014 | Reply

  3. […] die ISS vor dem Mond, die Standort-Suche für den Cherenkov Telescope Array (mehr und mehr), eine Nacht auf dem Kitt Peak, eine angebliche Zunahme und atmosphärische Beziehungen von NLCs – und im Komplex von […]

    Pingback by Allgemeines Live-Blog vom 9. bis 13. April 2014 | Skyweek Zwei Punkt Null | April 13, 2014 | Reply

  4. The photos are captivating. ❤

    Comment by chasingthest4rlight | December 14, 2014 | Reply

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