A Beautiful and Benign Science … Kitt Peak

March 31st, 2017 · No Comments

Kitt Peak by Jane St. Clair

A traveler who had been all over the world so as to see holy places like Bethlehem and Mecca .. this traveler once said that Kitt Peak was the most spiritual place he’d ever visited.

The beautiful mile-high mountain has a great serenity, grace and peace about it, as if it were a natural cathedral. The Tohono O’odham nation, upon whose land Kitt Peak sits, recognize it as the holy place that it is –for it is where their elder brother deity resides. Their creator deity lives on Baboquivari Peak, the sacred center of their cosmology. You can see Baboquivari from Kitt Peak’s fabulous summit.

Kitt Peak has the earth’s largest collection of telescopes so you’re seeing this strange mix of high-tech meets mountain wilderness. As you drive up the mountain, the telescopes first look like a field of little R2D2s.

But they are much bigger than Star Wars droids. The Mayall telescope has an 18-foot dome, and it’s so huge that you can see it from 50 miles away.The equipment is crisp and white against the big blue Arizona skies, and it holds all the promise of a sea voyage on a crisp blue day in a white clipper ship.

The various telescopes have different jobs. Some are solar telescopes that make the sun look like a gigantic red fireball with fire flares darting around its edges. But oh! the pictures the night telescopes can make! Pictures of impossibly beautiful colors and amazing shapes! Pictures of billions and billions of stars in billions of galaxies, billions of light-years away!

You can go inside some of Kitt Peak’s gigantic telescopes and watch them operate in perfect mechanical symmetry.They move in a high art form, the kind Stanley Kubrick captured perfectly in his movie 2001 when he made intricate technology dance in perfect synchronization to soaring orchestral music.

Plato said, “Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.” I think that is what makes it a beautiful and benign science. It reminds us that our small planet is part of something beyond ordinary comprehension. It is a science where there are no national identities, no boundaries .. just purity and universality. It is the place where science touches the spiritual.

Vincent Van Gogh understood that intersection because he said once … I have … a terrible need… shall I say the word? … of religion. Then I go out at night and paint the stars.

A Starry Night (courtesy of Vincent-Van-Gogh-Gallery.org)

To plant your visit to Kitt Peak, check out National Optical Astronomy Observatory website

Tags: Arizona · Arizona photography · Tucson Tourism