The Arizona Sonora Western Heritage Foundation, in cooperation with Old Tucson Company, will welcome 3,000 local fourth, fifth and sixth graders during the 24th Annual Ted Walker Youth Day on Thursday, Jan. 30, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A look into this week's events and happenings.
The Explorer’s article on the I-11 public meeting on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation suffers from being an after-the-fact interview without being present at the meeting. Had your reporter been there he would have seen over 100 residents of the Avra Valley – from Picture Rocks, Three Points, Barrio Sapo, Old West Ranchettes, Avra Valley, etc. – in opposition to the Canamex Highway route being championed by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. That 56-mile highway would end a peaceful way of life in the Avra Valley that has endured for thousands of years.
"We have the best location of any educational institution in America. The University ought to make itself famous with a telescope."
With those words, part of his long and persistent effort to bring a world-class observatory to the University of Arizona campus, pioneering astronomer Andrew Ellicott Douglass set forth his best argument.
Arriving at the UA in 1906 from the Lowell Observatory outside Flagstaff, Douglass sought almost immediately to take advantage of Tucson's dry climate and clear night skies, using his renowned 1910 Halley's Comet observations as proof of the region's unique potential. As he wrote in a 1908 guest editorial in the Arizona Daily Star, "Nothing advertises a climate better than a big telescope."
The paper's editors agreed: "The fame of its observatory would be greater than any other institution of like character in the United States. The atmospheric conditions are such as to demand recognition and consideration from the scientific men of all nations," according to a Feb. 6, 1910 editorial.
Douglass unsuccessfully lobbied the state Legislature for funds but in 1916 secured a $60,000 donation, at first anonymously from Oracle resident Lavinia Steward, in memory of her late husband Henry B. Steward. Construction on Steward Observatory began that year, and on April 23, 1923, the UA formally dedicated the facility, with its state-of-the art 36-inch reflecting telescope at last making Tucson an astronomer's paradise.
"Not only was this the first big donation (to the UA), it was the start of research at the University in a very real way," says Buell Jannuzi, current director of Steward Observatory and head of the astronomy department.
From those ambitious beginnings – the Steward telescope was nicknamed the "All-American" because it was the first astronomical telescope built using all American-made products – the observatory and astronomy department have branched out in all directions, to radio, X-ray and ultraviolet astronomy, adaptive optics, space-based telescopes and the renowned Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory, which constructs gigantic mirrors for the next generation of astronomy, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope.
"Douglass wanted more than just a major telescope for the University of Arizona; he wanted Steward Observatory to produce discoveries and to share them with the world. I think he would agree that his successors have continued to develop the quality of research we're producing, using technological innovations not as the end points, but as tools to further scientific discovery," Jannuzi says. "Our aspirations are the same as those of Douglass; we are just pursuing them with more modern tools."
Built on what was then the far east side of Tucson, Steward Observatory has been overtaken by campus expansion yet remains an iconic fixture of the UA, its white brick and dome now housing the 21-inch Raymond E. White Jr. Reflector telescope, used primarily for undergraduate education and public outreach, which has been a part of the observatory's mission since its dedication. The original 36-inch scope relocated to Kitt Peak in 1963 and remains in use by the Spacewatch Project.
Leadership for Steward Observatory has maintained a remarkable continuity, with just seven directors over its 90 years, including Peter A. Strittmatter, who served 37 years as director and led a remarkable period of growth and development.
"I think (Douglass) would agree the soul is still there in the observatory, and we're continuing the mission he set out for us," Jannuzi says, reflecting on what drew him to astronomy in the first place. "It's fun, like philosophers or theologians do, to think about the big questions. Often times we're working on some small part of a research project, but it's all part of a larger effort to understand the universe and how we relate to it."
Kitt Peak Visitors Center is excited to launch a brand new, behind-the-scenes; Monthly VIP Tour that allows unprecedented telescope access to areas the public rarely gets to see. The new Monthly VIP Tour, designed for individuals and small groups, is priced at $40 per registrant and is slated for the 4th Saturday of each month, beginning December through May 2013.
Like many other mornings this times of year, northwest resident Joyce Olson saw these three hot air balloons in flight last Friday and was able to capture them along with Kitt Peak off in the distance.
Kitt Peak announces its new hands-on public program titled Moon Madness.
Learn about the moon’s phases, make your own craters and observe the lunar landscape through one of Kitt Peak’s visitor center telescopes during Moon Madness, Feb. 12-13 at Kitt Peak National Observatory, about 56 miles southwest of Tucson.
OV has post on its board of adjustment
For years, the clear skies and minimal lights of the nighttime Southern Arizona desert have attracted major astronomy facilities to the area from around the world. Some have dubbed this part of the state "The Astronomy Capital of the World."
Gas firm can assist low-income users
Explorer staff report
Kitt Peak is holding a special program to discover "more about the star that is most important to everyone's lives – the sun."
Marana church recognized for growth, reach
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Northwest Fire District's Ironwood Hotshots were called last week to Kitt Peak to fight their first official Arizona wildfire of the season.
It’s one thing to look at a galaxy 2.5 million light years away with your unaided eyes. It’s something else entirely to find out the light you see was created when the human species had just started to evolve.