The Observatory Base Camp is located six miles south of Safford, Arizona on State Route 366, also known as Swift Trail; on the east side of Mt. Graham at the base of the mountain. The Base Camp is located immediately north of the Federal Correctional Institution. Please check in with the office staff to insure your permits are in order and to “log in” your presence at the observatory. The Base Camp office opens at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday except for holidays.
Mt. Graham International Observatory was conceived in the early 1980s. Two telescopes, the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope and the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope, were dedicated in 1993. The Large Binocular Telescope was dedicated in 2004.
Steward Observatory, the research arm for the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, was founded in 1917. The Observatory operates research facilities at Kitt Peak, Mt. Lemmon, Mt. Hopkins and Mt. Graham, Arizona. The Mt. Graham International Observatory is a component of Steward Observatory and is the umbrella organization for the research organizations located at the Mt. Graham research site.
The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, a joint project of the Vatican Observatory, Vatican City, and Steward Observatory, began scientific observation in September, 1994. The Submillimeter Telescope, a partnership between Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, located in Bonn, Germany, and Steward Observatory, commenced scientific observations in early 1995.
Mt. Graham International Observatory is also home to the largest telescope in the world. The Large Binocular Telesope (LBT), will provide new and more powerful views of deep space, including potentially answering fundamental questions about the origins of the universe and mysterious worlds in other planetary systems.
Mt. Graham International Observatory conducts weekend tours for interested people. With weather permitting, the tours begin in mid-May and go through mid-November.
Because permits are required to enter the endangered red squirrel refugium, advance reservations are required.
The tour features a trip up scenic Mount Graham, focusing on the mountain’s rich geology, history, and diversity of life; a lunch near the summit of the mountain; and a guided tour of the observatory facility. And, yes, Billy the Kid also walked the mountain paths back in the 1870s … Back at Gov Aker Observatory, the 20” Tinsley Cassegrain reflector is open to the public for viewing the heavens after sunset on most Saturday evenings.