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FLWO Visitor & Science Center

The Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO), part of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, is an observatory based in Mount Hopkins, Arizona. Alongside its status as an active observatory, hosting a number of innovative telescopes and instrumentation used for global astrophysics research, it is also dedicated to accessible astrophysics education.

Currently under renovation, the new Visitor & Science Center will showcase astrophysics exhibits, views of the surrounding Santa Rita Mountains and the MMT Observatory, and a Smithsonian gift shop. Tours of the FLWO telescopes will be offered when the Visitor & Science Center opens in 2024.

Visitor & Science Center Hours

Whipple Observatory's Visitor & Science Center is currently undergoing a major exhibits renovation and is closed to the public. We will reopen to the public in 2024.

Please note: The Visitor & Science Center is closed on federal holidays, during severe inclement weather, and other unforeseen circumstances. Please contact the Observatory before travel.

Exhibits and Programming

Inside the Visitor and Science Center

Exhibits, displays, science demonstrations and activities inside the Visitor and Science Center provide an introduction to astrophysical concepts explored daily by both on-site and globally-based researchers and scientists. Exhibits and programming explore FLWO’s telescopes and instrumentation, history, findings, our dependence on dark skies and the fight against light pollution, and how it all connects back to the public, Arizona, and our role in unlocking the mysteries of the Universe.

Outside the Visitor and Science Center

Exploring the exhibits just outside the FLWO Visitor and Science Center will help you to see how our scientists—and citizen scientists like you—engage in science every day. Interpretive exhibits surrounding the native flora, fauna, and our very own petroglyphs are mixed in alongside the NASA MicroObservatory—where you can be the scientist—and a trail of panels exploring VERITAS and its connection to gamma-ray astronomy, cosmology, and the creation of the Universe.

Touring the Observatory

Tours of Whipple Observatory are currently closed. We will announce the reopening date in 2024 but are unable to offer estimates for reopening at this time.

Please note: There are no self-guided tours of Mt. Hopkins or FLWO. All guests wishing to visit the Observatory must have an escort.

Please note: There are no self-guided tours of Mt. Hopkins or FLWO. All guests wishing to visit the Observatory must have an escort.

Tour rates

New tour rates for 2024 will be available in late 2023/early 2024.

Reservations

Beginning in 2023, all tours of Whipple Observatory will require advance purchase of tickets. Tickets for all tours are non-refundable unless stated otherwise.

Special Programming

Star parties, public lectures, and public science programming are often conducted on partner sites. Please visit our Facebook page for more information about upcoming events.

Cyclists, Hikers, and Amateur Astronomers

Cyclists, hikers, and amateur astronomers are welcome at FLWO, and may traverse the mountain road to 12km, making use of trails and the astronomy vista located along the way. There is no stopping on Mt. Hopkins Rd. for any reason, except at obvious side-of-the-road pullouts. This curved road with many blind spots sees regular traffic both day and night from observatory staff, researchers, and construction crews.

No public traffic is allowed past the locked barrier gate at 12km, as this could endanger the safety of researchers, telescopes, scientists, and you. Please note and adhere to the "no trespassing" sign at this location. No exceptions will be made.

The only public restrooms for cyclists, hikers, and amateur astronomers are located at the Whipple Nature Walk Trailhead outside of the gates to the Science Center and administrative buildings at the base of the mountain. Water here is untreated and it is not advisable to fill drinking water at this location; as such, the water fountains have been turned off. Please pack all required water for your trip. For questions, please contact the Nogales Ranger District of the U.S. National Forest Service.

Amateur astronomers are encouraged to use the Astronomy Vista, located roughly 1.5km up Mt. Hopkins Rd. after the wash on the left. Parking is on the right. There are no public restrooms at this location.

Health & Safety Notices

  • Elevation: The summit elevation of Mt. Hopkins is 8,550 feet. Persons with health concerns affected by high altitude should consult a physician before embarking on activities at Mt. Hopkins.
  • Physical requirements: The nature of Mt. Hopkins requires some strenuous uphill travel for those on foot or on bicycle. Please consult with a physician before embarking on activities at Mt. Hopkins.
  • Weather and road conditions: Tours may be cancelled at any time due to poor weather or road conditions if safety is a concern. If weather seems poor on the day of your tour, please call in advance of travel.
  • Lighting: There is no outdoor lighting surrounding the Observatory to protect dark skies and preserve research. Night and early morning visitors are encouraged to procure appropriate RED LIGHT lighting as headlights, bicycle lights, and flashlights are highly discouraged.
  • Road condition: The road from the Visitor and Science Center is a single-lane dirt road with no guard rails up to the gate at 12km. Persons unaccustomed to traveling on mountain roads of this type should carefully consider whether to travel this road. There is no public traffic allowed past the locked gate at 12km.