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A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kitt Peak National Observatory

It was just a Sunday putt to get me out of the house, not a grand ride or adventure.  I rode down to Kitt Peak National Observatory to pick up a new souvenir t-shirt, my old one from 2005 finally gave out.   The ride there is a typical ride for where I live, 180 miles of straight roads through the desert, 22 miles of curves going up and down the mountain to the observatories. It was 70-80 degrees in the desert, 57 degrees at 6500 feet at the top of the mountain. The cool air at the top of the mountain felt GREAT after a long hot summer.

The road up the mountain from the desert floor is 11 miles of twisties and good fun although the tar snakes are multiplying.  Back in 2004 a younger, more enthusiastic me on an Aprilia Caponord was hitting 110 mph on the short straights on the otherwise twisting road as I play raced with another rider on a BMW R1200GS.  Sunday a mature me settled for 55 mph or so, still fast enough to pass a Harley and a Can Am Spyder but I never did see a straight stretch where I'd want to do 110  mph. 

The 4.x meter Mather Telescope (L) is one of more than 2 dozen actual observatories on the mountain top.

The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope in the background is impressive and even a little Sci-Fi looking.

Lots of interesting angles and views on the solar telescope.  I'm thinking a 90° framing square wasn't much use in building the thing.  My level of math skills would have been of even less use.

Someone left a door ajar inside the solar telescope's visitor room so I took the opportunity to get an unusual photo. The wind started to blow the door shut so I jumped back inside real quick.   I could see them sparking up that big fella with me trapped in there and me getting blinded or French fried or something.  I'm told the angular highlights on the wall are cooling tubes, the interior temp of the thing has to be controlled somewhat so the heat from the walls doesn't distort the incoming light of images to be captured. 

The 25 meter span, 245 ton radio telescope is part of a ten telescope "Very Long Baseline Aray" that stretches from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands. Using fancy math the data represents the equivalent of a 5000' wide radio telescope. That kind of magnification, so the info placard said, would be enough to let you see from earth a football sitting on the surface of the moon.

A panorama shot of the valley below and south of Kitt Peak.  Click to see the whole image, it's about 5000 pixels across. Stitched together and cropped from 6 seperate images.

Sadly, the observatory gift shop had only garish, glow in the dark t-shirts for sale this time so I came away with naught but photos and a pleasant 225 miles of riding.


Trobairitz said...

No t-shirt, but pleasant riding and great photos.

I love the second to last one. Great composition with the branches in there.

D. Brent Miller said...

Sounds like a great way to spend a relaxing day. I too am a star gazer. --Brent

mq01 said...

incredible pics doug! i cant help but love the 1st shot best, but they're all fabulous!

Jac Brown said...

Glad to see you out riding. Consider it vicarious riding for the rest of us. After all, our first snow is falling as I write this.

I love the inside shot of the solar telescope. Not only unusual subject matter, but what a cool abstract composition.

I also enjoyed the panarama. I almost stepped off the edge by mistake.

Unknown said...


When you mentioned T-square it got me thinking about the Pyramids. I wonder if they had T-squares. Or the ruins at Machu Picchu, I wonder if they too had T-squares. I guess you don't really need one.

I notice you are still enjoying your camera and we are enjoying the images that they produce

Riding the Wet Coast

Theo van der Meulen said...

Hi Doug,

Great ride and beautiful photos.


Biker Mike said...

What a great ride I'm sat here in the UK rain wishing I was there with you.

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