Who is Kitt

Many mountains have two names, as does Kitt Peak. Native people often make reference to mountains through names that reflect physical features or spiritual deities associated with the mountain; the other name usually was given by explorers who had their own ideas of what places should be called. The Tohono O'odham name for Kitt Peak is "loligam" which means manzani-ta, the shrubby tree with smooth red bark and twisted limbs that produces pink bell-shaped flowers. The name "Kitt Peak" is credited to George J. Roskruge, a Pima County surveyor who named the mountain in honor of his sister Philippa (Roskruge) Kitt. The US Geographic Board made Kitt Peak the official name in 1930.

A note about telescopes. There are many telescopes of different sizes and types on Kitt Peak because no one telescope is ideal for all uses. Different types of telescopes allow astronomers to use the one best suited to answer the specific scientific questions they want to ask. In general, the bigger the telescope, the fainter the objects at which it can look. The advantage of smaller telescopes is that they can look at a much bigger piece of the sky at one time. Astronomers use small telescopes to make surveys or to study extended objects, while devoting the larger telescopes to detailed studies of faint or small sources. A telescope often is referred to by the diameter of its main mirror and the name of the mountain on which it is located (for example, the Kitt Peak 4-meter). That is because the most important properties of a telescope are its location and the size of the mirror.

Optical astronomers divide each month into dark time (when the Moon is below the horizon, or a thin crescent), and bright time. Many of the observations during dark time are devoted to studying other galaxies, which generally are very faint. When the light from the Moon brightens the night sky, much of the telescope time is spent observing stars within our own galaxy. This is less important to Kitt Peak than it used to be, because more of the observations are done in the near-infrared part of the spectrum. We cannot see with our eyes at such wavelengths, but we can sense such radiation as heat. The heat lamps that you sometimes see in restaurants for keeping food warm operate at least partially in the infrared.

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