Fire at Kitt Peak observatory

Fire at Kitt Peak observatory

Fire at Kitt Peak observatory

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
July 8 2007 8:46 PM

Fire at Kitt Peak observatory

The Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona has been evacuated due to a nearby forest fire. Everyone was able to get out safely.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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It doesn't look like the fire is too close to the telescopes, so that's good, but details are sketchy. In the image above, taken from a webcam on the 2.1 meter catwalk on the afternoon of July 8, from the 4-meter telescope's catwalk shows smoke from the fire. You can get the most recent info on the Kitt Peak webpage. Update: July 9: I switched the webcam image and link from the 2.1 meter to the 4 meter; the latter points more toward the direction of the fire. Thanks to Rob Sparks for pointing that out.

There are rich ironies here. I recently wrote about the fires at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, and in that blog entry I talked about visiting the Australian observatory at Mt. Stromlo in 2004, and how it was recovering from a fire. Just the other day, a friend sent me a newspaper clipping saying that another part of Stromlo has reopened, including a new solar telescope:

I never used a big ground-based telescope; I went from my 10" Newtonian to Hubble. But touring these giants gives you a real sense of the care and love that go into them, and a tangible sense of awe for what they can do. I hope everything goes well at Kitt Peak.

Tip o' the dew shield to Rob Sparks and Richard Saunders.