Lowell Observatory – 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. In 2011, the Observatory was named one of “The World’s 100 Most Important Places” by TIME.
The Observatory’s original 61-centimeter (24-inch) Alvan Clark Telescope is still in use today for public education. Lowell Observatory hosts 85,000 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.
The observatory operates several telescopes at three locations in the Flagstaff area. The main facility, located on Mars Hill just west of downtown Flagstaff, houses the original 61-centimeter (24-inch) 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 33-centimeter (13-inch) Pluto Discovery Telescope, used by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 to discover the dwarf planet Pluto.
Lowell in the observer’s chair; Alvan Clark refractor telescope; astrograph
Lowell Observatory’s astronomers conduct research on a wide range of solar system and astrophysical topics using ground-based, airborne, and space-based telescopes. Among the many current programs are a search for near-Earth asteroids, a survey of the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune, a search for extra solar planets, a decades-long study of the brightness stability of the sun, and a variety of investigations of star formation and other processes in distant galaxies.
In addition, the Observatory staff designs and builds custom instrumentation for use on Lowell’s telescopes and elsewhere. For example, Lowell staff built a sophisticated high-speed camera for use on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). SOFIA is a joint project of the United States and German space agencies and consists of a 2.5-meter (8.2-foot) telescope on board a Boeing 747 SP.