Astronomy tourists are flocking to public viewing programs at many observatories. Meanwhile, just a few feet away, the professionals make significant discoveries.

Collecting Light explores the democratization of astronomy and the next wave of important work using the world’s largest telescopes.

The series aired in 2013 on Tucson NPR Member station KUAZ.

Executive Producer/Reporter: Mark Duggan

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Stories

The popular science of public observatories

Astronomy is becoming a huge hobby for everyday people. Public viewing programs at observatories are booked months in advance. People want to see what the professional stargazers are seeing. It’s part of the ongoing democratization of astronomy.

A century of stargazing

How did Arizona get to be America’s epicenter of astronomy? Part of it was pure luck. But Arizona’s notoriously clear and dark skies also played a role.

The age of the giant telescope

Every few years, a new telescope is proclaimed to be the world‘s largest. The race is on to build instruments that see farther into the heavens and explain more of the unknown universe.

Dark skies, bright future

Arizona became an astronomy hub a century ago because of its clear, dark skies. Settlements were small, remote mountaintops plentiful, and clouds rare. Even today, the state gets up to nine months a year of near-perfect conditions for night sky observations.

Tomorrow, we see farther

Astronomers admit that our map of the known universe has many blank spots. There are vast areas of space that are still a mystery. That’s about to change.

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