Lowell Observatory

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Lowell Observatory is an astronomical observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Lowell Observatory was established in 1894, placing it among the oldest observatories in the United States, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965.[2][3]

The Observatory's original 24-inch (0.61 m) Alvan Clark Telescope is still in use today for public education. Lowell Observatory hosts 70,000 visitors per year at their Steele Visitors Center who take guided daytime tours and view various wonders of the night sky through the Clark Telescope and other telescopes. It was founded by astronomer Percival Lowell, and run for a time by his third cousin Guy Lowell of Boston's well-known Lowell family. The current trustee of Lowell Observatory is William Lowell Putnam, grandnephew of founder Percival Lowell and son of long-time trustee Roger Putnam. The position of trustee is historically handed down through the family.

The observatory operates several telescopes at two locations in Flagstaff. The main facility, located on Mars Hill just west of downtown Flagstaff, houses the original 24-inch (0.61 m) Clark Refracting Telescope, although its role today is as a public education tool and not research. The telescope, built in 1896 for $20,000, was assembled in Boston by Alvan Clark and then shipped by train to Flagstaff. Also located on the Mars Hill campus is the 13-inch (0.33 m) Pluto Discovery Telescope, used by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 to discover the dwarf planet Pluto.

Lowell Observatory currently operates four research telescopes at its Anderson Mesa dark sky site, located 20 km (12 miles) southeast of Flagstaff, including the 72-inch (1.8-meter) Perkins Telescope (in partnership with Boston University) and the 42-inch (1.1 m) John S. Hall Telescope. Lowell is a partner with the United States Naval Observatory and NRL in the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer (NPOI) also located at that site. The Observatory also operates smaller research telescopes at its historic site on Mars Hill and in Australia and Chile. Lowell Observatory is currently building the 4.2-meter Discovery Channel Telescope in partnership with Discovery Communications, Inc.

Contents

History

The original goal of the observatory was to measure solar irradiance variability.[4] When Harold L. Johnson took over in 1952, the stated objective became to focus on light from the Sun reflecting off of Uranus and Neptune.[4] In 1953, the current 21-inch telescope was installed.[4] Starting in 1954, the telescope began monitoring Uranus' and Neptune's brightness, and matching them against a reference set of sun-like stars.[4]

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