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The Large Binocular Telescope

While visiting my wife’s family in Safford Arizona I learned that a member of her family knew one of the chief engineers at the Large Binocular Telescope and that he was willing to give me a tour of that facility. The Large Binocular Telescope is part of the Mount Graham International Observatory and is located on 10,719 foot Mount Graham near Safford Arizona.

After contacting the engineer we set a time to take the tour. My brother in law and I met the engineer at the appointed time and started our long winding drive up the mountain. From the base of the mountain to the top was a 6300 foot climb. Though it was warm at the base of the mountain we experienced snow at the top before coming back down.

Observatories are often built on top of tall mountains that are located in desert locations. The high altitude puts the Large Binocular Telescope above much of the atmosphere allowing it to take clearer images. There are also many clear nights and low light pollution levels available for observing in the deserts of southern Arizona.

The Large Binocular Telescope uses two large 8.4 meter mirrors. When their light is combined it forms the light gathering capability of a mirror equivalent to 11.8 meters, making it one of the largest telescopes in the United States.

Twice in 13 years this observatory has survived two major fires on the mountain.

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