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Home KPNO Tours & Programs Nighttime Programs

Nighttime Programs


Please read our Plan Your Visit page to learn more about the climate up here at the summit!

No one may visit the observatory after 4:00 pm unless registered for a nighttime program.

The Visitor Center has 4 magnificent telescopes which are used for the Nighttime Programs:

Nightly Observing Program (NOP)

Travel with us to Kitt Peak National Observatory, located at 7,000’ (2100 m) in the Quinlan Mountains, for this very special evening. With 23 optical and two radio telescopes, it is the largest, most diverse gathering of astronomical instruments in the northern hemisphere. We begin our tour with a stop at the Visitor Center where we will examine the exhibits that describe this national observatory and other interesting topics. We enjoy a light meal and then have a docent-led introduction to astronomy and the night sky. Next, we learn how to identify stars and the constellations. Once we are outdoors we will explore the night skies and view them with high-powered binoculars. Then we enter one of the domes to view through a telescope and observe the night skies in all its grandeur. Come along and discover your Universe. If you’ve never participated in one of the night-time Kitt Peak programs before you are in for a very pleasant surprise.

The NOP is our most popular nighttime program and runs nightly year around. Warm clothes, good closed-toe walking shoes, pants (not shorts) and a jacket are important. Please consult this page for details about clothing and accessibility.

In case of inclement weather we reserve the right to insert an alternate astronomy program presented by Kitt Peak.

The program includes a light meal, and you may choose either a turkey (regular) or vegetarian sandwich. If you have dietary restrictions, you are welcome to bring your own meal. The kitchen cannot guarantee allergen-free, or otherwise specially prepared meals. The program fee is the same in either case.

  • Duration: 4–5 hours (see schedule below)
  • Minimum number of guests: A minimum of 4 guests are required. If fewer book the NOP it will be canceled.
  • Age limit: the program is designed for adults and older children. It is not recommended for children under 8 years of age.
  • Max. number of Participants: 20
  • Advance reservation recommended: we recommend booking at least 1 month in advance to ensure your best chance to get the date you want. Reservations made after 1:30 pm on the day of the program will not receive a meal because the kitchen requires a final meal count by that time. The program fee remains the same.
  • Price: $75.00 per person.
  • Discounts: 20% discount is available for seniors age 62 and older, groups of 8 persons or larger, active duty military with ID, and students with ID.
  • Tohono O’odham Nation: This program is free to members of the Tohono O’odham nation (TON Tribal IDs will be checked at the arrival).
Period Check in (please arrive by) Sunset (mid-period) Program approximate end

Jan-Feb

4:30 pm

6:05 pm

9:00 pm

Mar-Apr

5:30 pm

6:51 pm

10:00 pm

May-June

6:00 pm

7:33 pm

10:30 pm

July-Aug

6:00 pm

7:28 pm

10:30 pm

Sep-Oct

4:45 pm

6:16 pm

9:15 pm

Nov-Dec

4:00 pm

5:27 pm

8:30 pm

Weather Check at 10 am

You will receive a call at 10 am on the day of the program to advise of the weather forecasts and program status. We always strive to deliver a memorable stargazing experience. If the weather might prevent observing, we will offer the Alternate Astronomy Program (AAP), which includes some of the activities of the NOP plus other engaging hands-on activities and possibly a tour of one of the research telescopes not typically open to the public. In the event of unfavorable weather, guests will be given the option of attending the AAP or rescheduling for another date without charge. The programs will be canceled entirely only if conditions are deemed by the staff to be hazardous.

We do not offer refunds or rain checks for weather conditions other than expected or that change suddenly and limit our use of the telescope or otherwise interfere with any of our nighttime programs. The weather call is based on information available at the time of the call.

Please read our Plan Your Visit page to learn more about the climate up here at the summit!

Kitt Peak is first and foremost a research facility. To avoid interfering with research during nighttime programs, the Visitor Center adheres to strict lighting control procedures.

Headlights Are Not Allowed on Kitt Peak After Dark: Your vehicle’s headlights will be covered. When you leave after any evening program, you will be guided by an observatory vehicle for one mile down the mountain road. After that first mile, staff will remove the headlight covers for you.

Guests may not leave the programs early except in cases of genuine emergency. By making a reservation in any of our nighttime programs, you indicate your understanding of and willingness to abide by these procedures.

  1. Always carry a flashlight (LED lights are issued to participants)
  2. Always carry a KPNO-issued radio (OTOP only)
  3. Be cautious and respectful of wildlife; do not feed, pursue, or approach wildlife
  4. Stay with your guide and group
  5. No rock climbing or bouldering
  6. Stay out of recently burned areas
  7. If you experience symptoms of altitude sickness (dizziness, severe headache, etc) let your guide know immediately
  8. Be aware that high winds can make doors (on both cars and buildings) dangerous

Overnight Telescope Observing Program

This custom program gives you the full observatory experience and makes you a visiting astronomer at Kitt Peak using one of the four Visitor Center telescopes. Visual observing and imaging of amazing deep-sky objects are both possible. If you have ever wondered what it’s like to be an astronomer, this program is for you.

When you arrive at the Visitor Center, you will meet your telescope operator who will assist you in getting settled into your dorm room. After enjoying dinner, and a telescope becomes available, the night is yours for as long as you can last. Visual observing and imaging of incredible deep-sky objects are both possible. You may compile your own observing list or let the telescope operator make one for you. This program is often given as a very special gift to interested loved ones for special occasions and offers the guest a full visiting-astronomer experience. No prior experience in astronomy is necessary to participate in and enjoy this amazing program.

If you wish to observe or image specific objects in the night sky please check in advance by email. Parts of the sky will not be above the horizon on a given night and some objects are too faint to see.

  • Duration: from 3 pm to noon (latest) the next day. Departure before 9 am is not allowed. Please get a good rest after the session before driving down.
    Please do not plan your arrival and departure from Tucson too tightly.
  • Total prices (we are limited to two dorm rooms maximum):
    • Telescope for night, 1 guest, Single Room, including 3 meals: $945
    • Telescope for night, 2 guests, Double Room, including 3 meals: $1,000
    • Telescope for night, 2 guests, 2 Single Rooms, including 3 meals: $1,040
    • Telescope for night, 3 guests, 1 Double Room, 1 Single Room, including 3 meals: $1,195
    • Telescope for night, 4 guests, 2 Double Rooms, including 3 meals: $1,350
  • Advance reservation strongly recommended: we recommend booking at least two months in advance to ensure your best chance to get the date you want. Reservations made after 1:30 pm on the day of the program will not receive a meal because the kitchen requires a final meal count by that time. The program fee is the same.
  • Age limit: The program is designed for adults and older children. It is not recommended for children under 12 years of age.
  • Max. number of Participants: Tours are limited to 4 participants on a first-come, first-served, pre-registration basis.
  • Monsoon season: July and August are usually the least preferable months on Kitt Peak because of the monsoon.

Weather Check at 10 am

Guests will receive a call at about 10 am on the day of the program to advise them of the weather forecasts and program status. Please be available. In the event of unfavorable weather, guests will be given the option of rescheduling for another date without charge or refund.

The weather call is based on information available at the time of the call.

Quarter Program start (be at the base of Kitt Peak no later than) Sunset Program approximate end

Jan-Mar

3:00 pm

5:30-6:40

Before 12 pm+1

Apr-Jun

3:00 pm

6:40-7:30

Before 12 pm+1

Jul-Sep

3:00 pm

7:30-6:10

Before 12 pm+1

Oct-Dec

3:00 pm

6:10-5:30

Before 12 pm+1

Please read our Plan Your Visit page to learn more about the climate up here at the summit!

Study the weather right now at Kitt Peak: