TEL18 Bok telescope

Steward Observatory's 90-inch telescope has a very distinctive shape -it resembles a giant can of bug spray. Photo by Gary Rosenbaum, courtesy of Steward Observatory.

Steward Observatory, which is the research part of the astronomy department of the University of Arizona, owns two optical telescopes on Kitt Peak (the Bok 90-inch telescope and the Spacewatch 0.9-meter telescope), as well as telescopes on three other mountains near Tucson. The Bok telescope is located at the base of the road leading up to the Mayall 4-m telescope - the building is very distinctive; it resembles a giant can of bug spray. It was officially opened in 1969, and in 1996 it was named in honor of Professor Bart Bok, a former director of Steward Observatory.

In addition to studies of quasars and galaxies, it also is used to observe small bodies - known as Kuiper belt objects - in the outer reaches of our Solar System. The "planet" Pluto is now generally recognized as simply the biggest of the known Kuiper belt objects. These objects are not asteroids, nor are they comets, but essentially are a combination of the two. They are much larger than normal comets, and contain a lot more rock, but they also have thick coatings of icy material, which includes water ice and frozen gases such as carbon monoxide, oxygen, and nitrogen. Most Kuiper belt objects are on eccentric orbits, just like Pluto. One of them -Chiron - was observed to form a small coma, like a comet, on its 1996 closest approach to the Sun.

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