PROGRAM 1 : May 14 - 25, 2012
2012 Arizona/New Mexico Astronomy & Annular Eclipse Overview
|Saturday – Sunday||May 12 – 13||Pre-Tour Hotel Nights in Tucson, Arizona|
|Day 1||Monday||May 14||Arrive Tucson, Arizona|
|Day 2||Tuesday||May 15||Biosphere 2 & Steward Observatory Mirror Lab|
|Day 3||Wednesday||May 16||Kitt Peak National Observatory|
|Day 4||Thursday||May 17||Sedona, US Geological Survey & Lowell Observatory|
|Day 5||Friday||May 18||Grand Canyon National Park & Cameron Trading Post|
|Day 6||Saturday||May 19||Meteor Crater & Gallup, New Mexico|
|Day 7||Sunday||May 20||Chaco Canyon & Annular Solar Eclipse|
|Day 8||Monday||May 21||Acoma Pueblo & Roswell|
|Day 9||Tuesday||May 22||UFO Museum & Sacramento Peak Solar Observatory|
|Day 10||Wednesday||May 23||Museum of Space History & Spaceport America|
|Day 11||Thursday||May 24||Very Large Array Telescope & Albuquerque|
|Day 12||Friday||May 25||Onward|
|Saturday – Sunday||May 26 – 27||Post-Tour Hotel Nights in Albuquerque, New Mexico|
Arrive Tucson, Arizona
Arrive at Tucson International Airport (airport code: TUS) today according to your flight schedule, where you will be picked up and transferred to our hotel. Join your fellow travelers this evening for a classic Tucson welcome dinner of Mexican food and good cheer.
Overnight: Country Inn & Suites (3 nights)
Biosphere 2 and Steward Observatory Mirror Lab
Join us today as we drive north out of Tucson to Biosphere 2, a massive complex created to research and develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology. Two missions (between 1991 and 1994) saw Bionauts sealed inside its glass enclosure to measure survivability in a closed biosystem. Behind this highly public exercise was useful research that helped further ecological understanding.
This afternoon, we’ll pay a visit to the University of Arizona campus for a tour of the Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory. Using a honeycomb design with an innovative rotating oven, the lab’s astronomers produce telescope mirrors up to 8.4 meters (27 feet) in diameter for facilities around the world.
Kitt Peak National Observatory
This afternoon we’ll depart for a behind-the-scenes VIP tour of Kitt Peak National Observatory, home to the most diverse collection of astronomical facilities in the world. The broad summit boasts 24 optical and infrared telescopes (including several solar telescopes) and two radio telescopes. We’ll tour several of the major instruments and meet with leading researchers. We’ll stay on the mountain through sunset and then be given a tour of the night sky by Visitor Center staff using two of their larger reflecting telescopes.
Sedona, US Geological Survey, Lowell Observatory & Flagstaff
This morning we’ll leave Tucson for Arizona’s cool mountain pines. On our way to Flagstaff, we’ll stop for photos and lunch amid the red rocks in stunning Sedona.
Continuing up scenic Oak Creek Canyon, we’ll arrive in the town of Flagstaff for a behind-the-scenes tour of the US Geological Survey. The scope of the USGS Flagstaff Science Campus extends well beyond topographic maps and studies of Earth’s resources. The staff of its Astrogeology Research Program helped train the Apollo astronauts, and continues to analyze data from various spacecraft missions to planets, moons, and small bodies in our solar system.
After dinner on your own, we’ll visit historic Lowell Observatory, where Percival Lowell studied Mars, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, and Vesto Slipher measured the redshifts of galaxies. Our tour will include a visit to the Observatory’s stately rotunda – Percival’s library – and a glimpse through Lowell’s famous 24-inch Clark refractor, with which he observed the “canals” of Mars.
Overnight: Comfort Inn, Flagstaff (2 nights)
Grand Canyon National Park & Cameron Trading Post
This morning we’ll travel to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most stunning natural wonders. There will be time to gaze at spectacular views across the 16 kilometer wide (10-mile), 1.6 kilometer-deep (1-mile) chasm, have lunch on your own, explore scenic overlooks, walk some of the trails, and go shopping. We’ll enjoy sunset from one of our favorite canyon overlooks, followed by a stop for dinner at the historic Cameron Navajo Indian Trading Post.
Meteor Crater, Winslow & Gallup, New Mexico
After checkout this morning, we’ll depart for famous Barringer Meteor Crater. The world’s best-preserved impact site, this 1.2 kilometer wide (.75 mile) crater was formed when a 150-foot-wide meteorite slammed into the Earth some 50,000 years ago. We’ll have time to explore the recently modernized Visitors Center and museum, and take a guided walk along the rim of the crater.
After our tour we’ll travel east along I-40 to Winslow, Arizona, for lunch and a chance to be “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.” Continuing east, we leave Arizona and enter the Land of Enchantment – New Mexico – where we will spend the first of two nights in the Navajo town of Gallup. Join us late this afternoon for a visit to one of Gallup’s top trading posts to learn about this fascinating trading culture’s past and present. The resident trader will open his pawn vault to our group, a great opportunity for collectors to purchase rare, one-of-a-kind Native American art.
Overnight: El Rancho Hotel (2 nights)
Chaco Canyon & Annular Solar Eclipse
Viewing from within the Pueblo Bonito Ruin:
Latitude 36° 3.6′ N; Longitude 107° 57.7′ W; Elevation 6,135 feet (1,870 meters)
|EVENT||LOCAL CONTACT TIMES||SUN’S ALTITUDE|
|Start Partial Eclipse||6:27 PM||20°|
|Annularity Begins||7:33 PM||6.5°|
|Annularity Ends||7:37 PM|
|Approximate Sunset||8:15 PM
(Sunset partial eclipse!)
|End Partial Eclipse||8:36 PM||Duration of Annularity: 4 minutes and 11 seconds|
Bring your observing gear this morning on our drive north into the Navajo Reservation to Chaco Cultural National Historic Park. The 18-mile graded dirt road into this amazing canyon keeps visitor counts much lower than such a site would otherwise attract. Their loss is our gain!
Our group will take a ranger-guided tour of the principle ruins within this canyon, including amazing Pueblo Bonito with it’s massive pueblo walls, and multitude of ceremonial kivas. Celestial alignments at Pueblo Bonito, and elsewhere in Chaco Canyon, have earned this sacred ancient Anasazi Indian canyon the nickname “Stonehenge of the West”.
You’ll have time to explore on your own, photograph the beautiful ruins, and prepare for this afternoon’s annular eclipse. The eclipse will end below the New Mexico horizon, meaning you will see a crescent Sun setting on the horizon — an interesting photo opportunity.
SOUTH WEST ANNULAR ECLIPSE WEATHER
by Eclipse Meteorologist Jay Anderson
When it comes to weather, there is only one place to watch the 2012 annular eclipse – over the southwestern United States, and particularly, somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona. Even so, it is important to select a site that has a clear view to the west and that is not affected by clouds that form over mountain peaks in the direction toward the setting sun. Chaco Canyon, with its open spaces, and excellent weather, is the perfect spot for a spring eclipse. Climate statistics from the area show that 75 to 80 percent of the hours during May are sunny and that cloud cover averages only 25 to 30 percent, much of it semi-transparent. The late-day timing of the eclipse will help to subdue any convective cloud that might make an appearance. Rain is uncommon, falling on only 2 to 3 days in the month. Even the typical desert winds of the southwest will be in decline at eclipse time, as the ground begins to cool and the air stabilizes.
Acoma Pueblo & Roswell
We’ll depart Gallup this morning for Acoma Pueblo. Also known as Sky City, this amazing site sits atop a massive mesa, and is regarded as one of the oldest, continuously inhabited communities within the US.
We’ll end our day in Roswell with dinner on your own.
Overnight: Fairfield Inn Roswell
UFO Museum & Sacramento Peak Solar Observatory
After checkout this morning we will visit Roswell’s famous UFO Museum. It was in the vicinity of Roswell, in early July 1947, that something crashed in the desert. When a New Mexico rancher headed out to check on his sheep after a fierce thunderstorm, he discovered metal debris scattered over a large area and a shallow trench, several hundred feet long, gouged into the land. The story is now known as the “Roswell Incident.” We’ll learn all about it at the UFO Museum and take time to browse their otherworldly gift shop.
After our visit, we’ll leave the high desert for the Sacramento Mountains that rise some 2,700 meters (9,000 feet) above the sea level. Following a stop for lunch, we’ll drive to nearby National Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak. Our VIP tour will include visits to the Evans Solar Facility (where observations of the solar corona are made) and the Dunn Solar Telescope — it’s 110 meters (364 feet) tall, but two-thirds of it is below ground.
After dinner, join us for an evening of stargazing in beautiful Cloudcroft, renowned for its dark, pristine skies.
Overnight: The Lodge at Cloudcroft
Museum of Space History & Spaceport
After breakfast we’ll depart the high mountains and return to the desert town of Alamogordo and the New Mexico Museum of Space History. Here we’ll learn about the history, science, and technology of space exploration, and about some of the key people who have advanced our understanding of the universe. We’ll include time to visit the International Space Hall of Fame and its excellent gift shop.
After lunch we’ll pay a visit to Spaceport America, where the next chapter in space transportation is being written. Forward-thinking pioneers are developing both vertical and horizontal launch vehicles using the power of free-market enterprise. As the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, Spaceport America is designed with the needs of the commercial space business in mind. Unique geographic benefits, striking iconic design, and the tradition of New Mexico space leadership are coming together to create a new way to travel into space.
Overnight: Holiday Inn Express, Socorro
Very Large Array Radio Telescope & Albuquerque
After breakfast and check out, we’ll begin our journey to the Very Large Array (VLA), one of the world’s premier radio observatories. Made famous as a backdrop in the movie Contact, the VLA consists of 27 large radio antennas in a Y- shaped configuration. Each dish is 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution equivalent to a radio telescope with a dish 36 kilometers (22 miles) across. We’ll end our day in Old Town Albuquerque, for shopping on your own and a festive farewell dinner.
Overnight: Hotel Albuquerque
After breakfast you will be transferred to the Albuquerque International Airport (airport code: ABQ) according to your flight schedule, thus concluding your Arizona and New Mexico Skies, Scenic Wonders & Annular Solar Eclipse tour.
Pre-Tour Hotel Nights in Tucson
If you’d like to arrive a day or two early and explore Tucson on your own, TravelQuest has secured a limited number of rooms at the Tucson Country Inn & Suites for a nightly rate of $145 per room per night, double or single occupancy, including tax and breakfast. Arrival transfer is not included.
Post-Tour Hotel Nights in Albuquerque
If you’d like to explore Albuquerque or nearby Santa Fe on your own and depart a day or two after the tour ends, TravelQuest has secured a limited number of rooms at the Hotel Albuquerque for a nightly rate of $210 per room per night, double or single occupancy, including tax and breakfast. Departure transfer is not included.