On Friday, Kitt Peak National Observatory began a limited reopening program to welcome the public back after a three-year closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Contreras Fire, according to a news release from the observatory.
Kitt Peak is resuming guided daytime tours for public visitors on Fridays, Saturdays to Sundays through the Kitt Peak visitor center. Safety considerations following the Contreras Fire and limited parking availability mean that access to the observatory will only be possible through advance tour reservations. Visitors are encouraged to reserve tour seats well in advance as there are only 60 tour slots available per day: anyone wishing to tour Kitt Peaks campus will need a reservation.
During the tours, visitors can explore KPNOs rich assortment of telescopes the largest and most diverse collection in the world and their respective histories and discoveries. Among the tour highlights is a visit to the Nicholas U. Mayall 4-meter Telescope, home of the record-breaking DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument) survey. A second tour visits the KPNO 2.1-Meter Telescope which was one of the earliest Kitt Peak telescopes and is used for both imaging and spectroscopy.
In addition to resuming its daytime tours, KPNO has restarted its Overnight Telescope Observing Program. Through this custom program, anyone can live like an astronomer for a full night. Visitors get all-night access to a telescope which they can use for visual observing (looking at an object directly through an eyepiece) or capturing images of deep-sky objects. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. Evening programs, including the Nightly Observing Program and the Dark Sky Discovery Program, are expected to return in October.
Kitt Peak will be closed to visitors from Monday to Thursday until the end of September. Visitors can expect more open days in October.