*Update July 10, 2007 Since our visit in 2000 Discovery Park has become a campus of Eastern Arizona College. The camera obscura is still operated. Check out their "Open to the Public" web page for hours and contact information.
Discovery Park, Safford, Arizona
July 7, 2000

In July, 2000 we paid our first visit to Arizona for the annual meeting of the National Stereoscopic Association. As soon as the trip was planned we contacted Discovery Park, an observatory and educational facility in Safford, Arizona. Some months ago a visitor to our guestbook mentioned that a camera obscura was planned for this park. We found their web site which promised a camera obscura would be installed in the future.

It seemed too much to hope that the planned camera obscura would be there for our trip. What luck! The camera obscura had been installed a short time before we called.

We flew into Phoenix on July 6 and early on July 7 set out in a rented car for Safford in the southeastern area of Arizona. The trip was a little over 150 miles and the first half of the drive was through an area of really spectacular landscapes.

Above is a view of the back door of the facility with the window holding the lens and shutter. On the right the dome of the observatory can be seen.

A miniature railroad runs through the facility and additional exhibit areas and displays are planned for the future. We recommend this as an interesting place to visit in Arizona.


We arrived in the late morning on a beautiful sunny day and were greeted by a friendly staff and volunteers. We were shown into a multi-purpose room that seems to combine a classroom, display space and assembly area. A curved 12 foot long and 5 foot high screen is built into one wall at ceiling height. As we watched a shutter was opened on the back wall and a panorama of Mount Graham, 10 miles away appeared upside down on the screen. The image was bright and very sharp. Mount Graham is the site of several large telescopes.

The lens structure is mounted over a door and opens and closes by a shutter. Jack was stunned by the size and quality of the lenses. The diameter of the two main lenses is 40" each with an open aperture of 39". The center lens is about 3.5" thick and 19" in diameter. It is used to help flatten the projected image. The curved screen was built to the actual focus of the image and can focus from "just outside the door" to the top of Mount Graham.

The area between the park and the mountain is very empty. The only movement that day was the clouds and an occasional bird. We spend time looking at the panorama and examining the lens and mechanism.

We were then given a tour of the facility and a ride in a state-of-the-art space simulator ride, that takes you for an exciting trip around the solar system. An exhibition hall features the history of astronomy and videos and displays on telescope making.

We learned that Discovery Park is the visitor's center for Mt. Graham International Observatory (M.G.I.O.), a division of Steward Observatory of The University of Arizona. Tours of the observatory are available.

Visit their web page titled Open to the Public to learn more about the installation: http://www.eac.edu/discoverypark/public.shtm.

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