Cactus in the desert

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Night ride

On the second day I had an inspiring lunch with Adam Block.  He offered me a great photo of the Helix Nebula.  Of course we talked about astrophotography, the history and conservation of photos.

Small story that is very significant for how obvious astronomy is in Arizona.  When Adam and I were looking at his prints, the waiter was impressed by the photos.  He immediately recognized the photos.  For the waiter it wasn't a strange thing these astrophotos.  Can't imagine that this would happen here.

After the lunch I was picked up by Stephen Pompea of NOAO for a visit to the Kitt Peak Observatory.  Stephen was my chauffeur and guide.  A fantastic guide.  It was an honor to be in the companionship of such a great man.

Instead of taking the regular road to Kitt Peak we drove through the desert between Tucson and Kitt Peak. 
For me desert means sand and dunes as in the Sahara I saw in Mauritania.  The desert here is different.  Cactuses and rocks. Stephen explained me the volcanic origin of the desert.

From far you can see the domes of the Kitt Peak Observatory.  I was really thrilling to see these Cathedrals of Science on the mountain top.

First visit was the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope.  One of the largest solar telescope and a landmark.  Stephen invited me to see the solar telescope from the inside.  Not suited for people with vertigo. The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope is an impressive instrument and is still important for the daily solar watch. 

The view from the mountain is breathtaking.  One of the most spectacular views is at sunset.  The shadow of the mountain lies on the desert surrounding Kitt Peak.

The air is at this height (2.300m) is so clear and transparent that we even could see the Earth's shadow.

L'heure bleue was a moment of silence and magic.  It was really deep blue. 

After a first walk Stephen invited me to take diner with the astronomers.  They were preparing their night work.  After diner I had the opportunity to observe with one of the telescopes.

Unfortunately the Moon stood high and it wasn't the best observation moment for deep sky objects.  Jupiter and some open clusters where observed.  Enough to be convinced about the sky quality of Kitt Peak. 

Time to turn back to Tucson.  All the observatories were operational.  So we had to drive down in the complete dark with only the light of the Moon.  A magic night ride.

I would like to thank Stephen Pompea for this unforgettable moment

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