Whipple Observatory on Mt. Hopkins in Santa Cruz County is piloting a new tour that takes guests into restricted areas for an up-close look at the only gamma-ray telescope array in the United States, as well as another prototype telescope.
The “Up Close with VERITAS” tour, which launches on Tuesday, Nov. 5, will take guests on an outside walking tour of parts of the observatory’s administrative complex, including areas beyond barricades, to see one of four VERITAS (Very Energetic Radio Imaging Telescope Array System) telescopes.
Participants will also be escorted into the site’s restricted access area to view the prototype Schwarzschild-Couder telescope, a new type of gamma-ray telescope being considered for inclusion in the upcoming 118-telescope Cherenkov Telescope Array split between the Atacama Desert in South America and the Canary Islands.
Whipple Observatory pioneered gamma-ray astronomy and the current site near Amado was founded in 1968 by Fred Lawrence Whipple, who chose Southern Arizona for his observatory due to its dark skies and public support.
“We want visitors to walk away with a better understanding of and connection to the past, present, and future of gamma-ray studies, and how both Whipple Observatory and our dark sky communities in Southern Arizona made it all possible,” said Pascal Fortin, astrophysicist and site director at Whipple Observatory.
The “Up Close with VERITAS” tour is currently scheduled to run at 11 a.m. on every open Tuesday through March 17. Tour guests must be able to walk unaided over uneven terrain for up to 600 yards.
Tickets are free, but advance scheduling is required. Tickets available on Eventbrite (www.eventbrite.sg/e/up-close-with-veritas-tickets-78649959145).
For more information, call Amy Oliver, public affairs officer, at (520) 879-4406.