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Home Tours & Programs Nighttime Programs

Nighttime Programs


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.

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

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.

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

Discounts ($10) are only available for the Nightly Observing Program.

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

Nightly Observing Program (NOP)

The NOP is our most popular nighttime program and runs nightly year around. It introduces guests to the night sky by means of various observing techniques.

The NOP offers guests an introduction to the dark night sky above Kitt Peak after they watch a glorious Arizona sunset from nearly 7,000 feet above sea level. The program features the use of planispheres and binoculars for identifying constellations, bright stars, and the brighter deep-sky objects. Guests will also spend an hour at the telescope, exploring the night sky for spectacular celestial objects.

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 gluten free, allergen free, or otherwise specially prepared meals. The program fee is the same in either case.

The observatory typically used for the NOP is accessible to disabled persons. Reaching the telescope eyepiece, though, may be difficult for guests restricted to wheelchairs. Our programs typically involve walking, standing, and climbing stairs. Working service animals are welcome.

  • Duration: 4–5 hours (see schedule below)
  • Minimum number of guests: 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.
  • 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 is the same.
  • Price: $75.00 per person.
  • Discounts: Discounts (10$ off) are available for seniors age 62 and older, active duty military with ID, and students with ID.
  • This program is free to members of the Tohono O’odham nation (TON Tribal IDs will be checked at the arrival).
Period Sunset (mid-period) Check in (please arrive by) Program approximate end

Jan-Feb

6:05 pm

4:30 pm

9:00 pm

Mar-Apr

6:51 pm

5:30 pm

10:00 pm

May-June

7:33 pm

6:00 pm

10:30 pm

July-Aug

7:28 pm

6:00 pm

10:30 pm

Sep-Oct

6:16 pm

4:45 pm

9:15 pm

Nov-Dec

5:27 pm

4:00 pm

8:30 pm

Weather Check at noon

Guests will receive a call at about noon on the day of the program to advise them of the weather forecasts and program status. Please be available. If 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!

Dark Sky Discovery Program (DSDP)

If time at the telescope is your preference, DSDP is your opportunity to observe a multitude of deep-sky objects in a small group setting. The night begins with a light meal and spectacular sunset viewing. Then spend a full two hours at the telescope with a small group of guests to facilitate more time at the eyepiece and more interaction with the guide. Observe a variety of objects and discover the wonders of the dark night sky above 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 gluten free, allergen free, or otherwise specially prepared meals. The program fee is the same in either case.

The observatory used for the Dark Sky Discovery Program is not accessible to some mobility aids.

  • Duration: 4–5 hours (see schedule below)
  • Minimum number of guests: The program requires a minimum of 3 guests
  • Age limit: The program is designed for adults and older children. It is not recommended for children under 8 years of age.
  • Price: $90.00 per person.
  • 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 is the same.
  • This program is free to members of the Tohono O’odham nation (TON Tribal IDs will be checked at the check-in).
Period Sunset (mid-period) Check in (please arrive by) Program approximate end

Jan-Feb

6:05 pm

4:30 pm

9:00 pm

Mar-Apr

6:51 pm

5:30 pm

10:00 pm

May-June

7:33 pm

6:00 pm

10:30 pm

July-Aug

7:28 pm

6:00 pm

10:30 pm

Sep-Oct

6:16 pm

4:45 pm

9:15 pm

Nov-Dec

5:27 pm

4:00 pm

8:30 pm

Weather Check at noon

Guests will receive a call at about noon on the day of the program to advise them of the weather forecasts and program status. Please be available. If weather might prevent observing, we will offer the Alternate Astronomy Program (AAP), which includes some of the activities of the DSDP 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!

Night of the Marvelous Moon Program

With this guided Moon observing program, you’ll go beyond craters, and learn to identify some of the most admired and peculiar surface features on the Moon.

The evening begins with a group orientation and light supper in the Visitor Center, followed by sunset viewing. Sunset is followed by an indoor presentation on basic lunar exploration history and geology. After you’ve learned about the different kinds of features we can see on the surface of the Moon, your program guide will take you up to the telescope to see those features in person.

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 gluten free, allergen free, or otherwise specially prepared meals. The program fee is the same in either case.

The observatory used for the Night of the Marvelous Moon Program is not accessible to some mobility aids. Accessing the classroom requires a few stairs, or traversing gravel. Getting up to the telescope requires stairs. Working service animals are welcome.

  • Duration: 4–5 hours (see schedule below)
  • Minimum number of guests: The program requires a minimum of 3 guests
  • Age limit: The program is designed for adults and older children. It is not recommended for children under 8 years of age.
  • Price: $90.00 per person.
  • 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 is the same.
  • This program is free to members of the Tohono O’odham nation
Period Sunset (mid-period) Check in (please arrive by) Program approximate end

Jan-Feb

6:05 pm

4:30 pm

9:00 pm

Mar-Apr

6:51 pm

5:30 pm

10:00 pm

May-June

7:33 pm

6:00 pm

10:30 pm

July-Aug

7:28 pm

6:00 pm

10:30 pm

Sep-Oct

6:16 pm

4:45 pm

9:15 pm

Nov-Dec

5:27 pm

4:00 pm

8:30 pm

Weather Check at noon

Guests will receive a call at about noon on the day of the program to advise them of the weather forecasts and program status. Please be available. If weather might prevent observing, we will offer the Alternate Astronomy Program (AAP), which includes some of the activities of the Night of the Marvelous Moon 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!

Overnight Telescope Observing Program

Overnight Telescope Observing Program

This custom program gives you the full observatory experience and makes you a visiting astronomer at Kitt Peak. 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 4 pm to noon the next day. Sleep is optional.
  • Prices (we are limited to two dorm rooms maximum):
    • Telescope for night, 1 guest, Single Room, including 3 meals: $875
    • Telescope for night, 2 guests, Double Room, including 3 meals: $935
    • Telescope for night, 2 guests, 2 Single Rooms, including 3 meals: $965
    • Telescope for night, 3 guests, 1 Double Room, 1 Single Room, including 3 meals: $1,125
    • Telescope for night, 4 guests, 2 Double Rooms, including 3 meals: $1,285
  • 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.

During soft restart until ~May 2023:

Quarter Sunset Program start Program approximate end

Jan-Mar

5:30-6:40

4:00 pm

12:00 pm+1

Apr-Jun

6:40-7:30

4:00 pm

12:00 pm+1

Jul-Sep

7:30-6:10

4:00 pm

12:00 pm+1

Oct-Dec

6:10-5:30

4:00 pm

12:00 pm+1

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