Whipple Observatory - Arizona
Located near Amado, Arizona on Mount Hopkins, the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO) has the following facilities:
The 6.5-meter MMT (256-inch), a joint facility operated with the University of Arizona, for solar system, galactic and extragalactic astronomy.
The 1.5-meter Tillinghast (60-inch) and 1.2-meter (48-inch) reflector telescopes, for solar system, galactic and extragalactic astronomy.
The 1.3-meter (51-inch) PAIRITEL (Peters Automated IR Imaging Telescope; ex-2MASS) reflector, for infrared observations, especially of gamma-ray burst afterglows, supernovae and other variable sources.
The 10-meter reflector for gamma-ray astronomy in the 100GeV-10TeV energy range.
VERITAS, an array of four 12-meter reflectors for gamma-ray astronomy in the 50GeV-50TeV energy range.
The HAT (Hungarian-made Automated Telescope) network of optical refractor telescopes, used for robotic searches for variable stars and exoplanets.
The latest Telescope Schedules (restricted to CfA)
Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory
The Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO) is the largest field installation of the Smithsonian Institution Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) outside Cambridge, MA. Since October 1968, the FLWO has been used as the site for experiments requiring extremely dark skies, dry climate, and good "optical seeing."
Science Office: Dr. Emilio Falco (520) 670-5715
Facilities: Karen Erdman-Myres (520) 670-5703
Public Affairs: Dan Brocious
Public Tours, Lectures & Visitors Center (520) 670-5707
Directions to FLWO
Take Interstate I-19 south, past Green Valley to exit 56 (Canoa). At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn left and drive east to the East Frontage Road. Turn right on the Frontage Road and drive 3 miles to Elephant Head Road. Turn left and drive east, crossing the bridge over the Santa Cruz River. One mile past the railroad tracks, turn right onto Mount Hopkins Road. Drive southeast about 7 miles to the Administrative offices and Visitors Center.
Take Interstate I-19 north to exit 48, (Arivaca Road/Amado.) Drive north on the East Frontage Road to Elephant Head Road. Turn right and drive east, crossing the bridge over the Santa Cruz River. One mile past the railroad tracks, turn right onto Mount Hopkins Road. Drive southeast about 7 miles to the Administrative offices and Visitors Center.
COMO LLEGAR AL CENTRO DE VISITANTES DEL OBSERVATORIO WHIPPLE
Tome la Interestatal I-19 hacia el sur, pasando Green Valley; tome la salida 56 (Canoa). De la rampa de salida, gire a la izquierda y conduzca hacia el este hasta la ruta paralela a la I-19 (East Frontage Road). Gire a su derecha, continuando en direccin sur. Conduzca aproximadamente 5 kilmetros hasta "Elephant Head Road" donde debera girar a su izquierda. Prosiga en direccin este por esta ruta pasando el puente sobre el Rio Santa Cruz hasta "Mount Hopkins Road" donde debera girar a su derecha. Conduzca hacia el sureste por "Mount Hopkins Road" aproximadamente 11 kilmetros hasta llegar al Centro de Visitantes.
Tome la Interestatal I-19 hacia el norte; tome la salida 48 (Arivaca Road/Amado). De la rampa de salida, gire a la derecha hasta la ruta paralela a la I-19 (East Frontage Road). Gire a su izquierda, continuando en direccin norte. Conduzca aproximadamente 3 kilmetros hasta "Elephant Head Road" donde debera girar a su derecha. Prosiga en direccin este por esta ruta pasando el puente sobre el Rio Santa Cruz hasta "Mount Hopkins Road" donde debera girar a su derecha. Conduzca hacia el sureste por "Mount Hopkins Road" aproximadamente 11 kilmetros hasta llegar al Centro de Visitantes.
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Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory
Located at the base of Mt. Hopkins in the Santa Rita Mountains, 56 kilometers (35 miles) south of Tucson and just within the boundary of the Coronado National Forest, the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory Visitors Center features displays and exhibits on astronomy and astrophysics, natural science, and cultural history.
Exhibits include models of the original 4.5-meter and converted 6.5-meter Multiple Mirror Telescope, a three-dimensional model of galaxy distribution in the universe, and a touchable topographical map of the Santa Rita Mountains. Other displays trace the history of optical telescope development from Galileo to the new instruments planned for the 21st Century, recount the many Smithsonian research projects in Arizona during the past century, and describe current investigations in gamma-ray astronomy. A natural history exhibit examines those animals active in the nighttime, and features a large color transparency of the night sky over southern Arizona.
All exhibits and public areas are accessible; and, major exhibit titles have been translated into Spanish. (A full-text, bilingual guide to selected exhibits is available.)
In addition to the interior exhibits, the Visitors Center complex includes an outdoor patio with a Native American petroglyph discovered on site during construction, interpretative signage describing desert flora, and stunning views of the surrounding Santa Rita Mountains.
Two spotting devices, a 20-power telescope with an individual adjustable focus and a set of wide-field binoculars with automatic focusing, are installed on the outdoor patio of the Visitors Center. Manufactured by SeeCoast, Inc. and acquired through a Smithsonian Institution Special Exhibition Fund grant, the telescope and binoculars allow public visitors to capture close-up views of the MMT Observatory on the distant summit of Mt. Hopkins, as well as to view natural features of the surrounding Santa Rita Range of the Coronado National Forest and to see the telescopes of the Kitt Peak Observatory located some 50 miles to the west. Most important, the binoculars are mounted on a wheel-chair-accessible base. The addition is the latest in a series of features incorporated into the Whipple Observatory Visitors Center designed to make the facility accessible to broader audiences. For example, a rest and recreation area at the entrance to the site has a ramp leading to a wheel-chair accessible picnic table and cook-stove as well as rest rooms; and, a major part of its nature trail has a hardened surface. Presentation videos are open-captioned; and, for guests from nearby Mexico, a guide to exhibit and display text is available in Spanish.
The wheel-chair-accessible binoculars at the Whipple Observatory Visitors Center have also proven very popular with small astronomers.
The Visitors Center is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. (Please note that the Visitors Center is closed on Federal Holidays.) Special Star Parties, featuring lectures and telescopic viewing, are held quarterly at the Center on a Saturday, starting late in the afternoon. Reserved-seat bus tours, originating at the Visitors Center, are conducted three times weekly from early spring to late fall.
A trailhead, rest rooms, and picnic area developed by the Forest Service and located just outside the main gate are open 24 hours a day. There are benches, grills, and a hardened path that leads to vantage points overlooking Montosa Wash, a deep drainage running parallel to the site. A kiosk at the trailhead provides information about camping and hiking as well as other public programs. (The rest rooms and one picnic area are designated as accessible.) The picnic area is a perfect stopping-off spot for tours of other Arizona attractions, including Tumacacori National Historic Park, the San Xavier Mission, Tubac, or Nogales. Amateur astronomers are invited to bring their telescopes to the "Astronomy Vista," a special observing site with concrete pads and benches along a knoll at an elevation of 1524 meters (5000 feet) approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) east of the Visitors Center on a paved road. Here, within sight of the Multiple Mirror Telescope, amateurs may take advantage of the same clear, dark, Arizona skies so important to professional astronomers. (Access to telescope pads requires climbing a short, but somewhat steep, unpaved trail.)
Guided, reserved-seat bus tours of FLWO for the general public are conducted Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from mid-March through November. Tours originate at the Visitors Center, which opens at 8:30 a.m. A video presentation begins at 9 a.m. The bus leaves the office at 9:30 a.m. and returns by 3 p.m. Reservations are required and may be made in advance by calling (520) 670-5707, or, by writing to Whipple Observatory, P.O. Box 6369, Amado, AZ 85645. Reservations are on a first-come first-served basis up to the 30-visitor maximum. Because of the duration of the tour, children under six years of age are not permitted. Tickets are purchased on the day of the tour. Tour participants should dress warmly, bring lunches, and be prepared for moderate exertion at an altitude of 2626 meters (8550 feet). Not all mountain facilities are accessible, and, persons with cardiac or respiratory problems should check with a physician about traveling to this altitude.
Smithsonian Associates (with membership card): $6
Children (ages 6 to 12): $2.50
(There is no charge for schools, youth educational programs, and scouting groups. Call 520-670-5707 to make special arrangements.