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Contreras Fire Reaches Kitt Peak National Observatory

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TUCSON, Ariz., June 21, 2022 — The Contreras Fire, which began June 11 about eight miles south of the Kitt Peak National Observatory, has destroyed four nonscientific structures related to the observatory. According to a release Sunday afternoon from the National Optical Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab), which manages the observatory, all telescope domes are still standing.
Part of the Contreras Fire burning on the slopes of the Kitt Peak mountain on June 16. Courtesy of KPNO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA.
Part of the Contreras Fire burning on the slopes of the Kitt Peak mountain on June 16. Courtesy of KPNO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA.
Per NOIRLab, the remaining structures on the southwest ridge, along with structures on the north end near the Nicholas U. Mayall 4-meter Telescope (which hosts the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument [DESI]) and UArizona/Steward Observatory domes, are all protected. Crews were working Sunday to contain the fire near the decommissioned McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope, which is being converted to the NOIRLab Windows on the Universe Center for Astronomy Outreach. 

Reports received by NOIRLab Sunday were encouraging, the team said, though assessments of damage to equipment can only begin once conditions are safe enough for entry.

The fire has affected more than 20,000 acres, having begun on a remote ridge of the Baboquivari Mountains as a result of a lightning strike, exacerbated by high temperatures and dry and windy conditions. As of Monday, June 20, the fire was about 40% contained, according to information from InciWeb, a site that tracks wildfire activity.

Forecasts for the Tucson area from the National Weather Service Monday afternoon called for chances of thunderstorms failing to exceed 50% each day this week.

Published: June 2022
An afocal optical device made up of lenses or mirrors, usually with a magnification greater than unity, that renders distant objects more distinct, by enlarging their images on the retina.
The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
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