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Arizona

This is the Large Binocular Telescope on Mt. Graham in Arizona. Did a few articles on it, and also on Kitt Peak National Observatory. Funny story about the Kitt Peak experience. Got a room for the night on their viewing program, when most visitors are banned from the mountain due to light pollution from cars. It was bitter cold and windy that night. They knew I was there for an article, and gave me a key in addition to my room key…the wrong key. When I met an astronomer I showed him the key, and he told me it was a universal key: opens all buildings. So I figured I had access to all astronomers on the mountain, and told the one who informed me about the key that I’d come visit him later, after dinner in the cafeteria used by astronomers and overnight guests. When in the cafe, I met two other grad assistants who told me they were working at the main 4 meter telescope, the largest on the mountain. I told them I hoped to interview them as well, and see them later. So after dinner I went to the first observatory and let myself in with the key. The astronomer and his student help showed me what they were working on, and I took notes to questions. After that I went to the 4 meter scope, and used the key to get in there, too. No one was inside, so I went to the elevator, thinking they were upstairs in the control room. The elevator door opened, and two security men were there. They asked me who I was, why I was there, and how I’d gotten in! I showed them the key, which they seized. Then we went up in the elevator to the control room, where the grad assistants confirmed they had talked to me. They called the head of security, who cussed me out on the phone, saying I was supposed to stay with the night viewing (tourist) group. He said he would now escort me off the mountain. I told him I had paid to stay there overnight, was a journalist, and if he wanted to do that there would be no article. So I was escorted to the tourist group viewing, instead. They were using a amateur telescope and talking basic astronomy, which I already knew. So I went to my room and left in the morning. Later, the LBT director drove me personally from the University of Arizona to Mt. Graham for a tour and interview. We were alone in the car for three hours, and when I mentioned the Kitt Peak incident, he chuckled and said, “I heard about that.” He used to be the director of Kitt Peak. He also was on the Hubble Space telescope development panel. Small world, big universe.

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