The TIMPA Observing Site

3250 N. Reservation Road, Tucson, AZ 85743
Coordinates: 32º 16.868’ N, 111º 16.390’ W

Please Note:
The TIMPA Site is a secured (locked) facility and not open to the public. It is accessible during scheduled club star parties. If members wish to use the site at other times, they must contact Dennis McMacken (dkmcmacken [at] yahoo [dot] com) to arrange to borrow an electronic key-card.

Rules of Use

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The TIMPA Site is one of the sites used by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) for its monthly star parties. The Astronomy Fundamentals Special Interest Group (AFSIG) also uses the site for its activities. Located west of Tucson in Avra Valley on the west side of the Tucson Mountains, the location is a good trade-off between a dark site and its reasonably close proximity to Tucson. It offers skies dark enough for deep sky observing and astrophotography, particularly to the south, west and north. Some sky is lost in the eastern direction to the lights of Tucson, although the Tucson Mountains do block some of the light. Seeing at the site, in the center of a large flat valley, can also be quite good for planetary viewing or star testing telescopes.

The site includes six concrete telescope pads, all of which have electric service. In November 2008, the club dedicated the Gila Monster Observatory, a roll-off observatory designed by TAAA Member George Barber and constructed by many TAAA Members. The observatory contains a 14” Meade LX200R Advanced Ritchey-Chretien telescope donated by Meade Instruments Corp. through David and Wendee Levy’s Sharing The Sky Foundation. The site also contains a bathroom facility with three unisex bathrooms and an 8’x20’ steel storage container.

TIMPA_observatory TIMPA_bathroom
TIMPA_bench TIMPA_storage

What is TIMPA, Anyway?

TIMPA stands for the Tucson International Modelplex Park Association. It is a parcel of land (approx. 160 acres) located in Avra Valley west of the Tucson Mountains about seven miles west of the Saguaro National Park West. The TIMPA organization flies radio-controlled model airplanes at the site. The Southern Arizona Rocketry Association (SARA) also uses the site to launch model rockets. The property is leased from the City of Tucson by the TIMPA organization and is intended to be developed as a specialty city park. It consists of a caretaker’s ranch house, a large storage barn, a 750 foot-long paved runway, a large steel covered ramada containing model airplane flight preparation tables, a large graveled parking lot and a bathroom facility.

A Little History

Back in 1996, TAAA member, John Polacheck, heard about the site and inquired if the TIMPA organization would be interested in acquiring another partner, the TAAA. The TIMPA group was very interested because the relationship would be non-competing. TIMPA and SARA would use the site during the day and the TAAA would utilize the facility at night. The TAAA used the site, by permission of the TIMPA organization, for about a year for scheduled star parties, including beginners star parties. On July 14th, 1999, the TAAA and the TIMPA organization signed a letter of agreement allowing the TAAA unlimited use of the site for scheduled star parties as well as member use at other times. The TAAA pays TIMPA a monthly maintenance fee for the use of the site.

Development at the Site

Below is a chronology of the major TAAA accomplishments at the site.

October 2000
From the TIMPA Barn, electricity and telephone lines were run underground to the observing area and on to TIMPA’s ramada. The costs were shared with the TIMPA organization.

December 2000
Constructed a secure storage cage in the TIMPA Barn and moved TAAA property from a mini-storage unit to the new security cage.

April 2001
Constructed permanent bathroom facilities in conjunction with the TIMPA organization and shared the costs.

January 2003
Constructed concrete telescope observing pads with electricity.

May 2007
Purchased and installed an 8’x20’ steel storage container.

November 2008
Dedicated the Gila Monster Observatory with 14” telescope.

May 2011
Reworked the electrical system servicing the observatory and telescope pads.