Click on a photo to see a larger version of the image.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mt. Graham and the LBT from Kitt Peak

Tucson is known as the Astronomy Capital of the World because it has attracted so many observatories to its dry climate with more than 200 clear nights a year.  I happen to observe mostly on Kitt Peak, though I have also spent nights at nearly all the major observatories, including Mt. Bigelow in the Catalinas just north of town, Mt. Hopkins south of town, and Mt. Graham east of Tucson near Safford.  Mt. Graham houses the largest telescope in Arizona in the Large Binocular Telescope which combines the light of two 8-meter mirrors.  The LBT as it is called is huge and its building dwarfs most other buildings.  I have posted pictures on this blog in years past of the LBT as it is seen from the VATT (Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope) that is a short hike away from the LBT on Mt. Graham and is a great place to take pictures of the giant LBT.  It so happens that you can see the LBT from Kitt Peak which is a mere 112 miles away.  You can see it pretty easily when it is backlit in the morning sunrise with a pair of binoculars.
 This first image was taken this morning just after sunrise with my 75-300mm telephoto at 300mm with an exposure of 1/350 seconds at f/8, ISO 800.  You can see the LBT building on the distant Mt. Graham a bit left of center.  The mountains in front of Mt. Graham are the eastern end of the Santa Catalina's and in the middle foreground are the Tucson Mountains with the most prominent at the right edge being Cat Mountain.

In the mid-day sun, you can see lots of mountains, but you won't see the LBT very easily.  In the foreground are the Coyote Mountains that are part of the Quinlan mountain range that Kitt Peak is part of.  In the distance is Tucson surrounded by the Tucson Mountains to the west, the Santa Catalinas to the north and the Rincons to the East (at the right edge of the frame).  In the saddle between the Catalinas and Rincons you can see the distant Pineleno mountains that Mt. Graham is the tallest point of and is where the LBT is located.  This image was taken with my 75-300mm telephoto at 75mm focal length with an exposure of 1/3000 sec at f/16, ISO 800.

Taken around the same time, here is the view of Mt. Graham with my 75-300mm telephoto at 300mm focal length with an exposure of 1/2000 sec at f/11, ISO 400.

This last image was taken just before sunset with the shadow of Kitt Peak just below the frame.  What is cool is that the LBT is a bright white object that was plainly visible with my unaided eye and is an easy thing to see in this image.  Compare this to the earlier ones to see where the LBT is in those images.  Today was the 2nd time that I've seen the LBT without any visual aid from Kitt Peak and it requires the sun to be just in the right place and I presume the LBT dome has to be rotated so that it reflects light right back to us.  This image was taken at 300mm with an exposure of 1/1000 seconds at f/11, ISO 400.

No comments: