SaddleBrooke SkyGazers

Anatomy Club’s May tour

Teresa Greenberg

In mid-May, the SaddleBrooke Skygazers Astronomy Club toured the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory located near Green Valley in the Santa Rita mountains. The observatory consists of 33 telescopes and is the largest field installation of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). The CfA’s mission is to advance knowledge of the universe through research in astronomy and astrophysics and in related areas of fundamental physics and geophysics.

High atop Mt. Hopkins, at an elevation of 9,453 feet, is the 6.5 meter-diameter optical telescope (the “MMT”). The MMT is a joint facility of the Smithsonian and the University of Arizona. It is currently engaged in spectroscopy observations of distant galaxies. Another facility located lower on the mountain is the MINiature Exoplanet Radial Velocity Array (MINERVA) which is a ground-based robotic array of small-aperture robotic telescopes dedicated to exoplanet observatory. MINERVA has over 100 exoplanet discoveries to its credit.

A broad range of research is currently in progress consisting of exoplanet searches, detection of gamma-ray sources, optical and spectroscopy data collection and many others, all of which targets our Milky Way Galaxy and distance galaxies throughout the universe.

If all this sounds highly technical, guides explain the capabilities of the super telescopes in understandable terms.

Tours of the Whipple Observatory are open to the public. Information about the facility and tours can be found at