Dark Skies Guided Tour
*Masks are optional when you are outdoors, but they are required whenever you are indoors or viewing through telescopes.
**Barring any operational issues and weather permitting.
The nighttime Dark Skies Guided Tour lasts 60 minutes and gives you an intimate look at the wonders of the night sky. This Guided Tour is led by an observatory educator and includes a laser-guided constellation tour and viewing at all six telescopes of the Giovale Open Deck Observatory.**
In the event that weather makes viewing difficult, the Dark Skies Tour will replace telescope viewing with a tour of the Giovale Open Deck Observatory and constellation tours will be replaced with a tour of the Pluto telescope.
After checking in at the Steele Visitor Center, you can browse the Starry Skies Shop for gifts to commemorate your observatory experience. *Note: the Starry Skies Shop will be closed when your tour ends.
When your tour begins, you’ll head to the Giovale Open Deck Observatory, which recently opened in October 2019, via a glowing walkway. During your visit, before entering the observing plaza, you’ll become acquainted with the constellations that are visible in Flagstaff’s famously dark skies. Using a high-powered laser, your educator will point out prominent stars and constellations and tell their stories. In the case of cloudy skies, the constellation tour will be replaced with a tour of the historic Pluto Dome.
Next, the tour heads to the six advanced telescopes of the Giovale Open Deck Observatory. One by one, you’ll get to observe a variety of celestial objects at the four visual telescopes, including the 5.5” TEC wide-field refractor, the 8” Moonraker Victorian-inspired refractor, the 32” Starstructure reflector and the 16” Meade ACF catadioptric (using both a lens and mirror) telescope. Masks are required for this portion of the tour, and telescope eyepieces will be sanitized between each guest. In the event of cloudy weather, your educator will give you a tour of the facility and its six telescopes, but observing will not be possible.
Your Dark Skies Guided Tour will conclude at the two PlaneWave CDK catadioptric telescopes, both of which are connected to monitors instead of eyepieces. The 14” PlaneWave is equipped with a MallinCam color video camera that shows detail in celestial objects that are too faint for human eyes. The 17” PlaneWave is equipped with the Slipher Spectrograph, which shows the spectra that astronomers use to learn about an object’s chemical makeup and whether it is moving toward or away from us. In the event of cloudy weather, your educator will use previously captured images and spectra instead of live ones.
When your Dark Skies Guided Tour ends, our on-site Starry Skies Shop will be closed, but you can visit the gift shop online for gifts to commemorate your observatory experience.
To avoid overcrowding, please do not arrive more than 15 minutes in advance of your scheduled start time.