Organization & Sites

Organizational Structure

NOAO has three divisions, the original two observatories – Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) and Cerro Tololo InterAmerican Observatory (CTIO) – and the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC). Each of these divisions is led by a division Director, who is also an Associate Director of NOAO. Outside of these divisions, the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) program is led by a Head of Program. Each division and program report to the NOAO Director and Deputy Director. Staff of all these groups, other than KPNO and CTIO, are split between Tucson and La Serena.


The Tucson facility is located at 950 N. Cherry Avenue, on the University of Arizona campus. This building houses the NOAO Director’s office, the KPNO Director’s office, and is the headquarters for most of the other divisions and programs. In addition, the principal NOAO administrative services group (Central Administrative Services) and the infrastructure support groups for northern hemisphere operations (Central Facility Operations and Computer Infrastructure Services) are located here. This facility also hosts the headquarters and on-site staff of the WIYN observatory and some staff of LSST, in which organizations NOAO is a partner. This is also the primary location for the National Solar Observatory (NSO). 

Kitt Peak

Kitt Peak (elevation 6800 feet) is in the Quinlan Mountains on the Tohono O’odham reservation about 55 miles southwest of Tucson. In addition to the Mayall 4-meter and KPNO 2.1m telescopes, it is the site of the WIYN 3.5m telescope and a large number of tenant telescopes. Observer support facilities on the mountain top include a dining hall and a number of dorms. The Kitt Peak visitor center runs an assortment of public activities, including docent-led tours and nightly observing programs.

La Serena

The La Serena facility is located at Casilla 603, next to the campus of the University of La Serena. The compound (observatory headquarters, shops, and houses) was originally developed as the operational headquarters and living area for the staff of CTIO. It now also contains the Gemini South headquarters, and will contain the LSST headquarters. The NOAO activities in La Serena are now broader than operation of the observatory, and staff associated with NSSC and NSTC work from this facility also. These efforts, together with the local infrastructure support, are known as NOAO-South. This facility also hosts the headquarters and on-site staff of the SOAR observatory, in which NOAO is a partner. 

Cerro Tololo/Cerro Pachon

Cerro Tololo (elevation 2200 meters) and Cerro Pachon (elevation 2700 meters) lie in a site known as “Estancia El Tortoral”, which is located about 52 km ESE (80 km by road) of La Serena. The reserve is owned by AURA. Located on Cerro Tololo are the Blanco 4-meter telescope, the four SMARTS telescopes (1.5m, 1.3m, 1.0m. and 0.9m) in which NOAO is a partner. Several private telescopes, including the Curtis-Schmidt 0.61m, the PROMPT array of six telescopes, and the WHAM telescope. A cluster of time-domain follow-up telescopes is being installed by the Las Cumbres Global Telescope Network. The summit has facilities for visiting observers, including a dining hall and motel rooms. Located on Cerro Pachon are the Gemini 8-meter and the SOAR 4.2-meter telescopes, in which NOAO is a partner. Cerro Pachon will be the site of the LSST telescope. Cerro Pachon has its own dining and lodging facilities.


SOAR and Gemini on Cerro Pachón

SOAR and Gemini on Cerro Pachón. The LSST site is to the right of the Gemini dome just above the horizon.

Last updated or reviewed December 14, 2016.