A rapidly burning fire stopped all operations in Keith Peak National Observatory in Arizona, home to one of the largest collections of astronomical instruments in the United States.
The National Science Foundation, which runs the observatory, made the announcement Thursday (June 16th) as the Contreras fire approached the observatory’s buildings, as seen in images released by the NSF in his blog post (opens in a new section).
“This is burning grass and bushes in steep and rugged terrain that is difficult for firefighters to access,” NSF wrote of the fire, which engulfed 11,400 acres when the observatory was evacuated. “Hot and dry winds from the south and southwest are pushing the fire mainly to the north / northeast,” officials added.
All employees were ordered to leave the mountain at 4:45 p.m. local time on Wednesday (June 15th), following the activities of a skeleton crew that “secured telescopes, equipment and infrastructure for the observatory,” NSF said.
As of Thursday, the NSF said the fire brigade was ready at the top in case the fire approached buildings and equipment.
“The hydrants have been tested and the fire hoses have been deployed. Firefighters are launching large quantities of fire retardant at the southern end of the observatory in a bid to slow progress, the foundation said.
“In addition, firefighters are focusing on removing brushes on the slopes and have observers monitoring hotspots. Key tools are covered with protective covers and other packaging. The optics of the large telescopes are covered to protect them from smoke and falling. ash “, added NSF.
Update for #ContrerasFire near @KittPeakNatObs: https://t.co/IMujoLANGl. We continue to be grateful to the firefighters who release fire retardants and remove brushes on the tracks. Watch. has been evacuated and safety is our top priority. 📷: KPNO / @ NOIRLabAstro / @ NSF / @ AURADC pic.twitter.com/NiwjepvfLwJune 16, 2022
There will be regular updates on the situation on Twitter (opens in a new section)said the NSF. Kitt was founded in 1958, where astronomers have made remarkable discoveries in measuring cosmic distances and studying the structure of the universe.
Growing severe weather in the United States due to man-made global warming has threatened other observatories in recent years.
In September 2021, for example, a huge fire broke out in California just a few miles away of an array of radio telescopes for hunting aliens from the SETI Institute (Search for Alien Intelligence), known as the Allen Telescope Array.
And in September 2020 and September 2009individual fast-burning fires approached dangerously at Mount Wilson Observatory, also in California, an observatory best known for the discovery of Edwin Hubble that the universe is expanding.