Directors welcome

This book is about to serve as your introduction, real-time guide, or aide-mémoire for an eye-opening tour of Kitt Peak National Observatory. When I round the curve on the mountain grade and see the cohort of domes stretched out along the summit ridges, I am struck time and again with a feeling of awe at the juxtaposition of natural beauty and mankind's technical achievement.

Over the course of more than 40 years, astronomers have used the Kitt Peak telescopes to make a series of remarkable discoveries. They produced the first description of the cosmic web of matter traced by diffuse hydrogen gas. They found indisputable evidence for dark matter stabilizing the rotation of galaxy disks. They devised innovative techniques to measure the rate of expansion of the Universe that challenged conventional wisdom. And they tracked the light output of distant supernovae to infer the reacceleration of the Universe from the pressure of dark energy.

These great discoveries were made possible because the Observatory's mission is to provide state-of-the-art facilities to any astronomer in the country, solely on the basis of the merit of his or her ideas. The US National Science Foundation provides the Observatory's funding to support highly competitive, peer-reviewed scientific investigations without charge to the visiting astronomers.

As we begin the twenty-first century, a new generation of telescopes has taken the title of largest aperture away from the 4-meter telescopes of the late twentieth century. The Mayall and Wisconsin Indiana Yale and NOAO (WIYN) telescopes remain in the forefront of research for the indefinite future, however, because of their excellent delivered image quality, wide fields of view, and cutting edge instrumentation.

As you tour the Observatory site, this book will provide a wealth of information on the telescopes and their instruments, on the unique natural environment of this southwestern sky island, and on the culture of the Tohono O'odham people, who have graciously shared this part of their land with astronomers to advance human knowledge. The Kitt Peak National Observatory and Visitor Program staff are grateful to the authors, Leslie Sage and Gail Aschenbrenner, for their masterful description of this place and its significance.

Dr. Richard F. Green Director

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