Friday, December 27, 2013

Kitt Peak From The "Wrong Side!"

I figure I've made the trip to Kitt Peak National Observatory nearly a couple thousand times in the last 35 years... That includes 5 years of working on the mountain full time, 20 some years of volunteering and observing, and the last few working there part time.  But virtually every trip is from Tucson about 40 air miles to the northeast, so we're always seeing it from the same vantage point.  The view we're used to has the 4-meter Mayall Telescope dominating the north, right side, and the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope the south.  The other 24 or so telescopes are scattered between these two bookends, with a few at a lower level on the western side of the mountain.  The view here shows the "standard view" we normally see from the east, taken a few miles south of Three Points, the approximate halfway point.

Going to and returning from Puerto Penasco, Mexico, we continue considerably past the Observatory, so get a great view from the west.  It looks strikingly different, since the telescopes at the lower western slopes are visible, as is the "new" (finished in the mid-60s) road and it's scars from its excavation and blading.  While the sacred mountain Baboquivari is the center of the universe to the Tohono O'odham, due in some part to its being visible throughout the range of the reservation, Kitt Peak was also spotted shortly after turning east from Why, from a good 60 miles or more away until it was obscured by the 4,000 foot elevation Quijotoa Mountains.  Crossing the pass the Observatory stayed in view and grew steadily, the 2-image mosaic at left taken a few miles east of Sells with the 200mm zoom lens.  Continuing past the observatory on Ajo Way, Route 86 we had a majestic view from the northwest, with the Quinlan Mountain (where Kitt Peak is located) foothills blocking the view occasionally.  That view is shown at right...  Be sure to click on the images for the full-size view..

And of course, what sort of stereo photographer would I be without shooting some stereo frames from the moving car (while Melinda drove)!  Shooting with the 70-200 zoom, I'd shoot frames when lack of trees along the road would allow, and the moving vantage points allowed a good baseline for hyperstereo images (where the baseline is much further apart than your eyes.  This pair is likely nearly a half mile separation, and is presented in a "cross-eyed" view.  Cross your eyes slightly to view the right image with your left eye and vice-versa.  You should see 3 images, the center one showing depth.  The thumbnails is easier to practice on, then load the full-size image for more detail.

These last few pictures are rarely seen by those who don't wander past Highway 386, the Kitt Peak access road, so presents a view rarely seen by even long-term visitors or staffers.  Perhaps their appearance will inspire a few folks to wander a few miles further to investigate some new views!

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