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Kitt Peak Observatory in Southern Arizona

The 4-meter Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory

Stargazing is a rapidly growing multi-million-dollar boon for the state of Arizona, supporting numerous industries and jobs including the surging field of Astro-tourism.

According to a study conducted by Arizona Arts, Sciences, and Technology Academy (AASTA), astronomy and planetary science in Arizona represents a capital investment of more than $1.3 billion and an annual economic return of over $250 million to the state. The data also indicate major untapped growth potential of these research fields to expand the state’s economic base. The study revealed levels of active research funding that well exceed other fields in the State, such as bioscience funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Aerospace & Defense

Arizona is a leader in the country’s aerospace and defense industry, and communities in greater Arizona are significant contributors to the state’s A&D sector. Nearly six percent of the state’s gross product can be attributed to A&D, the third highest concentration in the nation.

More than 52,000 of the state’s jobs are directly attributable to the A&D sector, totaling more than 150,000 when accounting for the multiplier effect of indirect and induced jobs generated by this sector.


Another important astronomy offshoot, fueling a high-paying, job-producing sector, is Arizona’s optics industry. The Tucson “Optics Valley” supports a world-renowned constellation of companies ranging from large aerospace corporations to research facilities and entrepreneurial start-ups. The Optics Valley represents a broad range of products and services, including optical design and engineering, fiber optic components for telecommunications, lasers and semiconductors, metrology instrumentation, high precision optical fabrication, high volume precision plastic optics, precision measuring and positioning equipment, microscopes, telescopes, opto-electronics, image processing software, and optical coatings/thin films.

Benchmark data collected in 2001 show that optics revenue in Tucson alone accounts for over $600 million and more than 1400 jobs. Proximity to the Mexican border and an active relationship with Canada’s optics leaders have added to southern Arizona’s market position.

Education & Workforce

Arizona’s aerospace and defense research initiatives abound at the university level, demonstrating the state’s commitment to the industry’s growth. Higher education and industry partnerships promote entrepreneurship and innovation while facilitating cutting-edge technology commercialization. Arizona’s universities award more degrees in natural sciences and engineering than anywhere else in the country.

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