Astronomy in Arizona

Take a spectacular intergalactic journey as you view the ultra-clear Arizona sky with hands-on telescope viewing and take behind-the-scenes tours of world-renowned centers for astronomy research.

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 MMT Observatory, Mount Hopkins.   Credit: Howard Lester  The observatories of Arizona's Kitt Peak. Credit: Susan Degginger/Alamy  A gibbous moon overlooks one of Smithsonian's telescope domes, opening to prepare for night observation.  Credit: David Aguilar  Sky watching through one of many telescopes at Smithsonian's Whipple Observatory. Credit: David Aguilar  A 10-meter-diameter telescope, which searches for flashes of light created when gamma rays hit Earth's atmosphere. Credit: David Aguilar  The Observatory's giant gamma-ray telescope. Credit: David Aguilar  Kitt Peak Observatory  Viewing a lunar eclipse

Tour Details


The excitement of learning in-depth astronomy made me feel like a kid - I was not the only participant who made this exclamation. 

June V.

Been to China, Antarctica, Italy, Hawaii, Arizona - all with extremely competent, friendly, and helpful leaders - I'll be back! 

Doublas C.


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Few places on Earth offer better opportunities to study astronomy than the ultra-clear skies of Southern Arizona. Join us on a spectacular intergalactic journey and discover for yourself an infinite array of celestial phenomena during hands-on telescope viewing, in-depth lectures, and tours of some of the world’s great centers for intergalactic research. Spend a full day at Kitt Peak National Observatory, featuring the world’s most diverse collection of astronomical observatories. Tour the Mayall 4-meter optical telescope and the McMath Solar telescope and more! Journey to Smithsonian’s Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory located high atop Mt. Hopkins, the second highest peak in the Santa Rita range of the Coronado National Forest, for a VIP tour of the massive 6.5 Meter Mirror Telescope (MMT) and other powerful optical telescopes. You’ll also enjoy an exciting “star party” at the San Pedro Observatory, located deep in the Sonoran desert, where you’ll have the opportunity to look through 20” scopes and smaller telescopes set up throughout the inn. Enjoy sumptuous meals and attend exclusive discussions on the structure of the universe and other mysteries of the sky. Limited to 28 participants.

September 14 — Tucson

Individual arrivals at the Arizona Inn in Tucson. Join fellow travelers and Smithsonian Expert David Aguilar for a welcome reception, opening remarks, and dinner. (R, D)

September 15 — Kitt Peak National Observatory
Spend a day at Kitt Peak National Observatory located 60 miles southwest of Tucson in the Schuk Toak District on the Tohono O'odham Reservation. Kitt Peak has the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes. Visit the McMath Pierce Solar Telescope, the largest in the world, the 2.1 meter scope, and the Mayall 4-meter scope. Return to the hotel to relax before a presentation by David Aguilar. Enjoy a sumptuous buffet dinner after the lecture. (L, D)

September 16 — Smithsonian's Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory
Gather for a presentation by David Aguilar. This afternoon, depart for lunch in downtown Tucson. Continue on to the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory and board smaller vehicles for a drive up to Mt. Hopkins. Gather at Observatory Ridge to view several reflector telescopes including the 1.2- and 1.5-meter telescopes and the 10-meter-diameter optical reflector used for gamma ray studies. Then visit the 6.5-meter Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT). Explore the MMT housing, a four-story structure of offices, workshops, and computer labs that rotate with the instrument during the nightly observations. Afterwards, join astronomers for a catered dinner. Descend Mt. Hopkins and view the skies through smaller telescopes at the Visitors Center. (L, D)

September 17 — Triangle T Ranch & San Pedro Valley Observatory
Enjoy your morning at leisure at the hotel. Our morning lecture series by David Aguilar. Late this afternoon depart for Dragoon, Arizona and the Triangle T Ranch for a Southwest inspired barbecue. Continue on to the San Pedro Valley Observatory in Benson, Arizona. Take a look into the dark skies of Southern Arizona through 20” scopes and smaller telescopes set up throughout the inn. (L, D)

September 18 — Depart
Individual departures from hotel.