Southern Arizona Astronomy Tour


Our journey under Arizona's darkest skies is designed to bring you an in-depth and hands-on educational experience at some of the most exciting landmarks in astronomy throughout the ages, from ancient times to the frontier of modern observational technology. Ranging from age-old questions concerning the origin of the universe to our search for planets around other stars, husband-wife team, astrophysicist Jason Young and Discovery Expeditions tour leader Kristin Peterson, will guide you on a journey under Arizona’s darkest skies.

Learn about the first astronomers of Arizona, the ancient Hohokam peoples.  Join a local star party in Sabino Canyon. Explore the ecology research, sustainable technology, and prototype Moon/Mars habitat at Biosphere2. Take behind the scenes tours of world-class facilities like the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, Kitt Peak National Observatory, and the Large Binocular Telescope. Experience the beauty of Arizona’s famous dark skies. This tour is accessible to everyone with an interest in astronomy and a curiosity to learn more about our world and universe. From novices to aficionados, young or old, all are welcome.

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Program: 6 Day exploration of landmark observatories and other significant astronomical sites in southern Arizona

Dates: Thursday, June 2 – Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Trip Price: $1,350 Land Only, Double Occupancy (Add $370 for Single Occupancy)

Deposit Due Upon Registration: $250

Remaining Balance Due: April 15, 2016

 Group Size: This expedition requires a minimum of 14 travelers and can take a maximum of 38.


For itinerary and trip details, read below. 

This trip is designed as a LAND only (excluding flights) opportunity to allow travelers to stay longer if they wish and choose their own flights. It is the responsibility of each registered traveler to arrange their own transportation to Phoenix, AZ. First night lodging in Phoenix will be arranged for you; you only have to arrive by the evening of June 2nd so as to be ready to begin traveling with the group the morning of June 3rd. The trip officially ends on June 7th, where you will either be dropped off at the airport (if your flight is an afternoon or evening departure) or at your hotel if your flight is another day. You are welcome to choose flights to extend your visit before or after the dates of the Arizona Astronomy trip, and experience more of the region on your own. Receipt of registration and deposit will confirm space and contracted pricing listed here. Please contact Kristin Peterson for updated pricing if contract has expired. 


Southern Arizona Astronomy Overview and Itinerary:
From Archaeoastronomy to Cutting Edge Observational Techniques
Phoenix, Tucson, Kitt Peak, Mt Graham Overview


Day 1: (Thursday, June 2) Flight to PHX

Meet us in Phoenix and check into your room at the Courtyard Marriott Tempe (complimentary hotel airport shuttle available from PHX). Located near Tempe’s Mill Avenue District, the hotel is within walking distance of restaurants, shops, and entertainment.

Day 2: (Friday, June 3) Phoenix to Tucson

Day2 PuebloGrandeMeet the group at breakfast. This morning, tour Pueblo Grande’s archaeological site and museum to learn about the first astronomers of Central Arizona, the ancient Hohokam peoples. Understand how astronomy influenced the ancients’ daily lives, and connect the questions they asked to present-day explorations of the universe. After lunch, travel to Tucson to explore Biosphere 2, a center for ecology research, sustainable technology, and a prototype for potential future colonies on the Moon and Mars. Dinner tonight in Tucson will offer a taste of local cuisine and culture.

Day3 MirrorLab

Day 3: (Saturday, June 4) Tucson

Hidden under the University of Arizona football stadium is the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, which produces the largest and most advanced giant telescope mirrors in the world. After an expert-led tour this morning, walk across campus to Flandrau Planetarium and take a guided tour of the night sky as seen under the 60-foot dome. After sunset we’ll join a local amateur astronomers for a star party in Sabino Canyon.

Day4 KittPeakDay 4: (Sunday, June 5) Kitt Peak National Observatory

Travel to Kitt Peak and spend the day at our national observatory, home to one of the largest collections of research telescopes in the world, including two radio telescopes, the world’s largest solar telescope, and the flagship instrument Mayall 4-meter telescope. You will get an in-depth VIP daytime guided tour of the entire summit, have a light dinner on the mountain while watching the sunset, and experience an evening observation program on one of Kitt Peak’s telescopes.


Day 5: (Monday, June 6) Mt Graham International ObservatoryDay5 LBT

Visit the cutting edge of 21st century astronomy and the largest, most powerful telescope in the world: the Large Binocular Telescope on Mt Graham. Park vehicles will transport us along the windy ride to the top of the scenic 10,500 ft mountain. After lunch we proceed to the observatories and will tour the control rooms, the living quarters, the research data rooms, etc. of all three observatories: the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, the Arizona Radio Observatory, and one of the most powerful telescopes in existence, the Large Binocular Telescope. If there are any astronomers awake and available, we will be able to speak to them and ask them questions about their research.

Day 6: (Tuesday, June 7) Phoenix

Day6 ScenicDriveScenic drive back to Phoenix and afternoon or evening flight home. 

Please note that most of the observatories are not wheelchair accessible. To fully participate in this program, you must be able to climb two or three flights of stairs, stand in place for extended periods, and walk at least ¼ mile. Additionally, on Day 5, due to the extremely high altitudes at Mt Graham, it is strongly recommended that those with the following diagnosed medical conditions not participate: chronic respiratory disorders, asthma, chronic obstructed pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure (CHF), abnormal heart rhythm – arrhythmia, pregnancy.


Trip Inclusions & Exclusions

Discovery Expeditions agrees to provide each of the following goods and services for the duration of the tour to each participant:

  • Professional General Liability and Errors and Omissions Insurance Policy ($5,000,000)
  • Private bus transportation and driver between sites
  • Accommodations in shared facilities on site (5 nights total) – Phoenix (1 night), Tucson (2 nights), Willcox (1 night), Globe (1 night)
  • Custom designed itinerary
  • Entrance fees to all program sites and activities listed on the itinerary
  • Full time Professional Discovery Expeditions tour escort (Kristin Peterson) and astrophysicist and night sky expert (Jason Young)
  • Most meals: Breakfast Days 2-6, Lunch Days 4-5, Dinner Days 2-4
  • All taxes
  • All gratuities (tour leaders and driver included)
  • Complete tour participant accounting including option to pay by credit card
  • Comprehensive Accident, Medical, Liability, and Travel Protection/Cancellation/Interruption Insurance for the Land portion of the trip
  • Optional Cancel For Any Reason Insurance – cancel up to 48 hours prior to departure and receive 75% refund

Not included in the trip price:

  • Airfare and baggage fees (to be purchased at the discretion and responsibility of each participant)
  • Airport transfer to first night hotel (complimentary airport shuttle available from hotel upon request)
  • Meals Day 1 when traveling to Phoenix; Lunch Days 2-3 & 6; Dinners Days 5 & 6
  • Final night lodging in Phoenix (if necessary) or any additional days one chooses to remain in the area