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FLWO Visitor and 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 and is open to the public through the Visitor and Science Center.

 The Visitor and Science Center showcases astrophysics exhibits, views of the surrounding Santa Rita Mountains and the MMT Observatory, and a Smithsonian gift shop. Tours of FLWO telescopes are offered on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from mid-March through November.

Visitor and Science Center Hours

Whipple Observatory's Visitor and Science Center is currently undergoing a major exhibits renovation and is closed to the public. We will reopen to the public in late 2023.

Please note: The Visitor and 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. Please check back in November 2023 for updates.

      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 will be available in late 2023.


      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.

        No public traffic is allowed past the locked barrier at 12km, as this could endanger the safety of researchers, telescopes, scientists, and you. Only those on a guided tour of the Observatory are allowed past the barrier. No exceptions will be made.

        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.