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“Great program for all ages!”

Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Raleigh, North Carolina
Level Contributor
19 reviews
18 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 40 helpful votes
“Great program for all ages!”
Reviewed December 31, 2013

This is a great program for adults and kids alike. The drive up to Mt. Lemmon is fantastic and I would recommend allowing extra time for exploring and pulling off to see the scenic vistas and Summer Haven. It is hard to impress a 14 year old boy, but on the way back to the hotel after the Sky Nights program, he said that he loved this activity and thanked me for planning it. The program is a little long and the evening does get cold, so pack for layering up as the sun sets. A must see while in Tucson and one of the highlights of all of our trip! Well worth the price of admission, but make your reservations far in advance.

Visited December 2013
Thank lauren_nc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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230 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Level Contributor
10 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“SkyNights program is awe-inspiring”
Reviewed December 26, 2013

We saw planets and their moons, nebulas, galactic clusters and even the sun with prominences and sun spots - an incredible experience all around. Our little group ranged in age from 22 to 86 and each of us thoroughly enjoyed the program. Our guide astronomer, Keith, brought challenging space concepts down to earth and gave us all several "Wow!" moments. What a worthwhile way to spend an evening! Do dress warm - even though the temps were in the upper 30s on the mountain, the amount of time outside and in the unheated observatory will chill you - layer up and wear a hat!

Visited December 2013
1 Thank ActionPeas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
35 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
“Great experience for pretty much everyone”
Reviewed November 24, 2013 via mobile

I convinced my parents and husband to do this with me and we all loved it!

A few tips:
-Dress warmer than you would think. Lots of layers, a warm hat, gloves or mitts, long johns, etc. and then one more layer! It is really cold on top of the mountain at night even when it is hot in the city and you will be outside most of the time (when viewing through the telescope you are pretty much outside as the roof is wide open). Someone in our group brought a blanket to wrap around their legs which could be a good idea if you don't have long johns. You can buy warm hats and hand warmers in the gift shop if you'd like.
-If you are curious as to why to need to arrive a couple of hours before sunset it is because you will learn how to look through the telescope and binoculars, and how to use a star chart before it goes dark (well worth it). You'll also see a short movie about the history of the site, etc.
-If the weather isn't perfect and you are given the opportunity to change your date (and your plans allow you to change the date) do so. We went as clouds were rolling in, and while our guide was great at showing us lots of things we were quite rushed to do so.
-Try to get on a tour with less people if possible. This will give you more viewing time at the telescope. It is still worth it with a full group (20 people).
- What you see through the telescope is awesome, but don't expect to see galaxies and nebulas like you see in the star magazines. Cameras are able to capture much more than our naked eyes over longer exposures, etc. You can see galaxies "far far away" and it is quite spectacular but really what you see is a fuzzy spot.
-Vegetarians - you would be ok at dinner but may want to bring something extra. There is green salad, granola bars, yogurt, cookies...not a proper dinner but enough unless you are pretty hungry. Vegans - bring some food with you.
-Consider giving yourself extra time driving up the mountain to stop at some of the viewpoints. We actually went up early for a hike and a picnic...it makes for a long day but was well worth it.

Visited November 2013
3 Thank freckledsun
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
“Bucklist MUST do!”
Reviewed November 17, 2013 via mobile

Who really has the opportunity to look through a 32" telescope and KNOW what you are looking at. Outstanding experience. These guys are so passionate about their work and makes the experience all the better! We went when the moon was full which made looking at it through the telescope insane! It's not a joke when they tell you to dress warm. This is a must do!

1 Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Scottsdale, Arizona
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“A terrific sky viewing experience!”
Reviewed November 12, 2013

I live in the Phoenix area, about 130 miles from Tucson, where the Mt Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory is located. I wanted to know the best times to visit the SkyCenter to have the highest probability of a cloudless evening for viewing through the 32” Schulman telescope, and this is what a SkyCenter employee told me: The end of February through early May and then September, October through early November are the best viewing times, although the program is conducted all year round. Monsoon storms can cause viewing problems in the summer, and while she didn’t say it, in the winter it can be very cold at a 9,157’ elevation. I enrolled for a spot in early November 2013 and was fortunate to experience a perfect evening for viewing.

The SkyCenter program information told me to arrive at the appointed place by 3pm, not to be late, and dress very warmly. I left my mid-city Tucson hotel for the 40 mile drive to the top of Mount Lemmon, and while it was supposed to take me about an hour and a half, it took me over two hours because of the stops I made to see the beautiful views. Upon arrival at 3pm, our host, Adam Block, met all of us and checked in the 20 people present, the maximum number allowed.

The program consisted of the following: Adam introduced us to the building structures and their purposes at the mountain top and the what the program would entail. Adam took us inside the structure where the 32” telescope was housed, and explained the workings of the telescope. He then used a smaller telescope and camera focused on the sun, and used a computer to show the live camera image on a screen. We could see sunspots on the sun. It was fascinating! We next went inside the learning center building where Adam presented a video showing many of the objects we would see later and answered any questions anybody had. After a light but adequate meal, we went to the edge of the mountain to view the beautiful sunset. Adam returned us to the learning center, where he introduced us to the binoculars and star charts we would be using when it became dark. A short time later when it was dark, Adam took us outside to use our binoculars and star charts to view and identify stars and constellations. Then, lastly, we went back inside the 32” telescope structure where Adam began the main event. Over the next almost two hours, Adam expertly operated the telescope so all 20 of us saw all of the 15 to 20 objects in the night sky he wanted us to see, including the moon, Venus, Neptune, stars, galaxies, nebulae, etc., etc. It was awesome! My favorite viewings were of the moon (the detail was incredible), Venus, Neptune (a blue dot that I had never seen before), and the “Ring Nebula” (the blue glow of the “ring” was amazing, although my eyes could not pick up the red ring outside the blue ring that cameras can). Adam provided an excellent explanation of each item viewed and answered several questions that participants asked. Adam did an outstanding job the whole evening! And it was very cold, even inside the 32” telescope structure, and I was glad I brought my heaviest winter coat.

After I returned home, Adam e-mailed me a souvenir solar picture and provided a website to view most of the objects we had observed during my visit. Both of these items provided an excellent summary for a terrific program.

Visited November 2013
3 Thank JimboA187
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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