Monday, April 18, 2011

Bristly little friends and a visit to Kitt Peak...

Enough with the chicken spa. Back to Arizona!

We saw lots of wildlife when we were there. One morning we looked out the windows to see a family of  javelina saunter by!

Javelina are also known as collared peccary. They are not technically pigs, but they bear a strong resemblance!

In the heat of day, they find cool, shady places to snooze in, but early in the morning they are out foraging. Their predators are mountain lions and coyotes, not to mention human hunters. We were thrilled to see them in the wild, since Apple Hill is not exactly awash in javelina. The little ones were very cute.

And later that day, we headed out of Tucson towards Kitt Peak, to the National Observatory. The mountain upon the telescopes are perched is part of the  Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation.  They had to do some serious negotiating to be allowed to set up the observatory there!

Before going up the mountain, we stopped at the Trading Post. Some beautiful baskets and other crafts and art are for sale in here. We bought a great woven basket.

The we started the long drive up the mountain. As we got near the top, observatories appeared on the peak!

Astronomers come from around the world to peer at the sky through the wonderful telescopes located here.

There's Gordon, reading a plaque. Gordon LOVES plaques!

Beautiful views all around!

Before we began the evening program, we were taken out to watch the sunset and learn a bit about the different observatories.

I spotted a John Deere...

 The sunset was spectacular. This one's for David, who likes southwest sunsets! :)

 Savour this exquisite lighting on one of the observatories.


This observatory is owned by a university in the southern US (I forget which one) and is remotely operated. Nobody has even has to be in there to look at the stars. The pink flamingo and pink handrails tell you it belongs to southerners.

And the sun sinks into the horizon. After this, we went inside to learn more about the stars. There are a few different public observing programs run at Kitt Peak. Later we came back out and looked at the sky through binoculars, then we viewed the binary star Castor (in the constellation Gemini) through a wonderful 20" telescope (at home, we have an 8" Dobsonian telescope that is a lot of fun to use.)

Pleiades was especially beautiful through binoculars. If you haven't looked for this star cluster before, I urge you to do so! It's not hard to find when it's out, and it is a gorgeous jewelbox of stars.

But the pièce de résistance of the evening was seeing Saturn through the 20" scope. Breathtaking! I first saw Saturn in 2003, the year we bought our Dobsonian. It is impressive to look at, even through a small telescope. Every time I see it, I can hardly believe I am looking at the ringed planet itself. Magic!

We had a great time at Kitt Peak. If you've never taken the time to look at the stars before, grab a pair of binoculars and get out there. Familiarize yourself with a few of the more well-known constellations (Big Dipper, anyone?) and you'll be on your way. There's a whole world up there that most people ignore. Trust me, it's worth looking at.

Here are the Kitt Peak webcams.

More Arizona pics to come!


  1. Anonymous9:16 am

    What kind of camera do you use? Again, fabulous photos. Those sunsets are heavenly (no pun intended).

  2. You bring back such wonderful memories of Arizona. I remember the javalenas. I saw a few live in the desert and, in Sedona, artsy javelinas were everywhere done by varous artists. (like the cows in Chicago and the moose in Toronto).

  3. Great photos. What a gift to get to see the Javalenas. I'd want to protect them because they don't look like they have much defense.

  4. Thanks for the shout out! Southwest sunsets are so beautiful. When I visited New Mexico I looked forward to that every evening. That’s also where I became addicted to green chile. I put them on everything now. Yum yum yum.

    Also, I love reading plaques!

  5. The sunsets are beautiful. I remember flying into Tucson and seeing clouds nestled into the mountains with a blue, blue sky. It was probably one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. Spectacular pictures!

  6. CogDis, these ones were just taken with my little Canon Elph. I am very pleased with it! But my good camera is my Nikon D70 SLR. It's GREAT but I need to get a wide-angle lens for it.

  7. Elisabeth, I must get to Sedona next time!

    Deb, don't worry too much. They can be a bit fierce when necessary, although I guess they can't match a mountain lion, or a man with a gun!

    David, I really want to visit New Mexico. Maybe we can combine it with another Arizona trip. Green chile, yum!

  8. Genny, the desert sky is really remarkable.


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!