Day 2: Flagstaff, AZ to Kitt Peak National Observatory, AZ
Distance: 590 km
Duration: approximately 11 hours
Picking up from the last post, I woke up for day 2 of riding feeling a little negative. I knew how cold it was outside, and I knew that I was going to have to ride through it, and bear it. On the plus side, the Sun was up, which makes it warmer, and I bought a pair of winter gloves at the gas station the night before. In order to keep out the cold I wore several layers both top and bottom, including my motorcycle rain gear. I put the winter gloves OVER my riding gloves (double layer gloves) and I hit the road. Though not before I noticed there was frost on my seat:
This time I was going to finish what I started: see Meteor Crater. Here’s a map of that trip:
By the time I got to Meteor Crater, my hands had frozen again (even with both gloves on), but it was much more manageable. I’ve really wanted to visit Meteor Crater for a long time. I’ll let me explain why it’s so cool:
As you can see the crater is HUGE. Actually you may not be able to see; there is a huge depth perception issue when looking into the crater. Trying to picture the opposite rim of the crater being over a kilometer across is very difficult. The crater is also the site of some in-field geologic training the Apollo astronauts took in the mid 1960s to prepare for working near craters on the Moon.
I bought this small chunk of the meteorite from the gift shop of the museum. Meteor crater has been outfitted with a wonderful visitor centre. It has a museum, movie theatre, gift shop, guided tours, and other artifacts strewn about the complex. For instance, they have lunar test capsule you can at:
Honestly, I could have spent all day at this facility, but I had to put kilometers on the motorcycle otherwise I wouldn’t make my next target: the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Here’s one last picture:
The rest of the trip, while relatively short on the map (again you should look at the interactive map I have here), took me all day. That may partially be due the detour I took through Sedona, Arizona. Instead of taking the same I-17 south that I took north into Flagstaff, I took the scenic route, which features a large number of switchbacks down from the mountain area. This actually had two upsides: scenic, and got warmer quicker.
It was a long boring drive after that to get to Tucson, AZ, where I met up with another astronomer to get set up for my night on Kitt Peak. Unfortunately, I was behind schedule again and started my last leg of the journey out to Kitt Peak right when the Sun was going down. This means I had to ride nearly 2 kilometers up a mountain in the dark. This wasn’t as bad, however, as it was much warmer where the observatory is, and I had been there before. When I finally summited, the (almost) full Moon was bright in the sky. It’s pale glow bouncing off of the nearby observatories.
Once arrived, it was time to get into observing mode: stay up as late as I can to push my body into a night time rhythm. After my day of riding, I only made it to 1am. Not bad!
Today I went up to the Kitt Peak Visitors Centre to check out their outreach initiatives and giftshop/etc. This is the visitor centre building.
That’s right, the visitor centre has its own observatory. In fact, the visitor centre has at least 3 telescopes! Impressive. In the centre they had a number of small exhibits and information on the mountain/observatories/history/etc. Very fun, I found a very large meteorite:
I already posted this pic in twitter today, but it warrants another post here. This telescope is so big, the instrument+detector are as tall as me!
While I don’t appreciate the clouds at night, they make for an amazing sunrise