The University of Arizona

SkyNights

Skynights with students

SkyNights is a popular after-dark program that takes advantage of the unique capabilities of the SkyCenter for experiencing the heavens. The SkyNights experience is offered nightly throughout the year. Learn the constellations, observe interesting atmospheric phenomena, and view the wonders of the cosmos from a high-quality astronomical site using an outstanding new 32-inch Schulman Telescope…Arizona’s largest dedicated public viewing telescope!

Most of humanity have not seen the Universe as clearly as we are able to using our large telescope atop Mount Lemmon.

Purchase tickets using our on-line ticketing system. Click the "TICKETS" button on the right to select a night and begin!

Or for more information, complete our contact form and we will contact you.

  • This five hour program starts in late afternoon and accomodates approximately 7-20 people.
    But we can also handle and accommodate larger special groups (call for more information).
  • $60 Adults , $30 Youth (7-17 yrs) includes a light dinner.
  • This program starts at varying times throughout the year based on when the sun sets. (Roughly 3pm Winter, 3-4pm Spring and Fall, 4-5pm Summer)
  • Cancellation Policy: Tickets are fully refundable, or you may reschedule, with a minimum of 48 hours advance notice prior to your originally scheduled program date.  Please contact us by email or phone to initiate a refund or reschedule.  If less than 48 hours notice is provided, your tickets are non-refundable and cannot be rescheduled. Should the SkyCenter cancel the program for any reason you will be given a full refund by default.

 

FAQs for Participants

1. How long is the program? (travel time and program time)

Starting from the University of Arizona campus, it takes about an hour and a half to drive up to the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter. City traffic can make this a bit longer or shorter depending on the time of day. Be sure you start with a full tank of gas! There are no filling stations on the mountain. The last station is at the corner of Tanque Verde Rd and the Catalina Highway, and from this intersection the SkyCenter is about an hour away. Once at the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, the program generally lasts 4-5 hours.

2. Is a map available with directions to the site?

A map of the Catalina Highway and route up Mt. Lemmon is available on our website under Visit Us. Directions: From the University of Arizona campus, take Speedway Boulevard east to the intersection with Wilmot Road. Turn left (north) onto Wilmot Road. Wilmot Road becomes East Tanque Verde Rd. Continue on Tanque Verde Road for approximately 4 miles – bearing left onto the overpass at the junction with Wrightstown Rd - until you reach the Catalina Highway, which is the next left turn after the North Bear Canyon Rd intersection. If you reach North Woodland Rd, you have gone too far. DON’T FORGET TO GET GAS BEFORE GOING UP THE MOUNTAIN!! The closest gas station to the SkyCenter is at the intersection of Catalina Highway and Tanque Verde Rd. Follow the scenic Catalina Highway up 28 miles towards the town of Summerhaven. Just after the "Welcome" sign for Summerhaven (but prior to arriving at the town) turn right on to East Ski Run Rd. For detailed directions from this point and instructions on parking, please refer to item #3 below. Remember, reservations are required to participate in any Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter programs.

3. Where and when do we meet?

9800 East Ski Run Rd

As you approach the town of Summerhaven near the top of Mt. Lemmon, you will encounter a right turn to Ski Valley called East Ski Run Rd. Turn right onto this road and continue until you come to the Ski Valley parking lot. You will see the ski lifts on your left and the Iron Door Cafe on your right. There is a US Forest Service gate at the end of the parking lot. If this (lower) gate is open, you should proceed to drive up the obseratory access road another 2 miles.  You will come to  the SkyCenter and observatory gate, which will be closed. Please position your vehicle to the right side of the road ( allowing access for other vehicles) and wait until the SkyCenter staff arrives to open the gate.  

If the (lower) gate is closed please park in the parking lot (right) below the Iron Door Cafe. An employee of the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter will soon meet you at this gate and give you further instructions. Please do not park within the Ski Valley lot near the lifts (on your left)! The Ski Valley resort locks their gates each evening and we do not have keys!

Your confirmation email indicates your arrival time for the program on the date. Please arrive 10-15 minutes early because once the employee admits participants to the program and the group continues to the observatory the employee will not be able to return for late arrivals!

4. Can I use my car's headlights near the observatory?

During many of our programs participants are permitted to park on the observatory grounds. In general, if it is dark when you are parking or leaving, please do not use your headlights because that will disrupt work at the neighboring telescopes. Please only use your parking lights until after you exit the site through the observatory gate that an employee opened for you. An employee will lead you out of the observatory, just a few hundred feet, in this manner.

5. Do I need to pay the Coronado National Forest access fee?

Visitors to Mt. Lemmon whose sole destination is Summerhaven, Sky Valley, or the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter are not required to pay the forest access fee. Just drive slowly past the USFS kiosk (milepost 4.5) on the left side.

6. How long a drive is it from Tucson?

Please allow at least 90 minutes from the center of Tucson. It takes about 60 minutes of steady driving from the base of the mountain. Participants originating from outside the city limits will need to allow appropriate additional travel time. You may also want to allot extra time to appreciate the spectacular vistas from the mountain road lookouts.

7. What should I wear?

The Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter is at an altitude of 9,157 feet. At this elevation, the weather is very unpredictable and subject to change. Bring warm clothing regardless of the time of year - winter coats, hats, and gloves. We have even made Alaskans cold! While we do have heated spaces, the telescope is open to the night air to see everything from planets to other galaxies. We suggest the ‘layering’ method to accommodate your personal climate tolerance. It is better to have extra warm clothes and be comfortable rather than be cold for the entire program. Please wear closed-toed, sturdy shoes for your warmth and safety.

8. What other items should I bring?

We will provide you a set of premium binoculars for the duration of the program. Of course, you are welcome to bring your own binoculars, as well as a camera to capture our beautiful sunsets.  And remember to bring warm clothing!

9. What is the program—activities, schedule?

After entering the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, the program begins at our refurbished Learning Center. Guests are driven here and later to the telescope on our shuttle bus. No strenuous walking is required. Once in the Learning Center, the presenter will introduce the guests to the facilities, the mountain, and elements of the program that they will soon undertake. Guests will then eat a light meal (sandwiches, chips, cookies, drinks). After you have eaten, the presenter will instruct guests in the use of star charts and binoculars. Shortly before sunset (typically 60-90 minutes after arrival) we will escort guests to a picturesque mountain overlook to observe the sunset. We will then head up to the observatory dome area to wait for the sky to become dark enough for stargazing. Once deep twilight has fallen, we will step outside for a brief sky orientation using the star charts and binoculars. We will look at some of the brightest stars and constellations as well as a number of deep sky objects visible through the binoculars. Often surprises such as meteors and satellites make an appearance at this time. The sky orientation begins approximately 25-30 minutes after sunset and lasts 30-45 minutes. Finally, guests will use the 32-inch Schulman telescope (the largest dedicated public telescope in the southwest) to view the heavens. We will see everything from planets to other galaxies. Guests will continue to use the binoculars and star charts throughout the evening. Typically we view at least one example of every type of deep sky object: binary stars, moon and planets, star clusters, nebulae (star birth and death), galaxies, stellar spectra, and comets or asteroids. Every season offers new astronomical vistas. Presenters may also vary from night to night, so the exact program might vary, but the total can reach 15-20 different astronomical targets!

10. How many people will participate?

The maximum number of participants is 20 so that everyone has time to look through the telescope and to ask questions. If your group is larger, please call us at .520.626.8122 to see if we can accommodate you.

11. Can children participate?

Children must be 7 years or older to attend the evening observing program (for safety reasons and in consideration for the other members of the group). If your child loves astronomy and is slightly younger, please contact us to see if an accomodation can be made on your chosen night.

12. Will the program require strenuous activity?

No. Our shuttle bus moves participants from one location to another. The ground around the telescopes may be a little uneven in areas, but there is very little walking.

13. Are the facilities available to people with special needs?

Yes. There is a ramp for the Learning Center and a bus for transportation around the site. If you have other concerns, please call us at (520)-626-8122.

14. Will there be anything to eat?

We will provide a light meal (sandwiches, salad, yogurt, granola, chips, cookies, drinks) shortly after your arrival. Warm drinks will be available during the evening.

15. What if it is cloudy on my scheduled night?

Cloudy nights happen. However, they will not prevent us from providing you an out-of-this-world experience. You will be contacted earlier in the day to discuss your evening's program. Should it appear that significant clouds may be present, you will be given a choice to go ahead and attend the program in the hope that it clears enough to view our beautiful universe, to reschedule, or to receive a refund on your ticket. We strive to offer chance-for-clear experiences especially for our many visitors from out of town, who do not have an opportunity to reschedule. Chance-for-clear presentations delight visitors with our unique mountain setting and captivating demonstrations. Typical activities include viewing the often spectacular sunset, touring professional observatories, and using special equipment including an infrared camera, a cloud chamber (to observe cosmic rays), and ionized gas spectra.

16. How far in advance do I need to reserve and purchase tickets?

Generally a week or two in advance is sufficient to secure a spot on a night you wish to participate. We can take reservations up to 24 hours in advance.

17. Can I smoke or drink alcohol at the observatory?

No smoking or alcohol (consumption or being under the influence) is allowed on site.

18. The Release Form:

We require each participant to sign a release when they arrive at the site. Parents and guardians of children younger than 18 years of age must fill out an additional form for them. Thus each breathing being has their own form in their name.  In an effort to save time, we ask that you and your guests read the form prior to attending the program. This information is included in the confirmation e-mail we send you. We will ask you to sign the form when you arrive to our site.  If you have any questions or concerns, you may contact us at 520.626.8122 or skycenter@as.arizona.edu.

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