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Sun-Earth Day Presents: Ancient Observatories, Timeless Knowledge

Technology Through Time: Issue #5, Kitt Peak

Solar observatories often look like ordinary astronomical telescopes, but other designs have been explored as well. Solar tower telescopes not only provide astronomers with detailed views of the solar surface, but their shapes are futuristic and literally out of this world.


Latitude: 31° 57' 30.3"
Longitude: 111° 35' 40.83" = 7h 26 m22s.72
Altitude: 2096m (6876 ft)


The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope was dedicated in 1962. With its 80-inch (1.6 meter) heliostat mirror the McMP is the largest aperture solar telescope in existence. A heliostat feeds a beam to an open-air, unobstructed mirror system that produces an image of the Sun that's roughly 0.8-meters in diameter. The mirror is mounted equatorially and rotates with the celestial sphere, once per day. This mirror configuration reflects the solar beam down the telescope's equatorial axis to the telescope's imaging optics that are stationary and so require quite only simple mountings. The telescope incorporates a tower rising nearly 100 feet above the ground from which a shaft slants two hundred feet to the ground where a tunnel continues an additional three hundred feet into the mountain. Nearly 140 34 X 8 foot copper panels comprise the outer skin of the telescope. Through these panels are circulated 3,600 gallons of anifreeze and an incredible 15,000 gallons of water. A refrigerating plant located about two hundred feet away pumps the chilled mixture to the telescope through underground pipes.



Image Gallery:

Kitt Peak gallery image

Photo Credit:

National Solar Observatory Kitt Peak

Technology Through Time Bulletin Board Activity

This bulletin board activity is designed to focus student attention on the role that sun watching has played in humankind's survival through time. As part of this display you may wish to use your own world map ordownload one we have created for you.

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