Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff - My Grand Canyon Park

Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff

This observatory helped create maps of the moon and is home to the telescope that helped an observatory assistant discover Pluto.
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The Rotunda Museum at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Courtesy photo

The Rotunda Museum at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Courtesy photo

See the Stars Over Flagstaff

In 1930, 24-year-old observatory assistant Clyde Tombaugh peered into the Clark Telescope at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., and spotted something very unusual. 

It turned out to be Pluto. Thirty-one years later, the observatory became part of another momentous event. In the race to be the first country to put people on the moon, President John F. Kennedy announced in 1961 that astronauts from the United States would land on the moon's surface before the end of the decade. 

There was only one large problem. No detailed map of the moon existed. 

Yet,  Lowell Observatory became ground zero for mapping the moon, thanks to the famed Clark Telescope, which was built in 1896. Working around-the-clock for a decade, groups of airbrush artists and scientists used the telescope to look at the topography of the moon and draw beautifully detailed maps of the moon's surface. 

These maps proved critical to assisting in the astronauts in deciding where to land on the moon, says Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory's historian. 

Today, you can tour the beautiful grounds of the observatory with friendly, knowledgeable guides and experience the universe though widescreen multimedia shows, exhibits, live presentations, and SlipherVision, an immersive space theater.

You also can view the moon’s craters and Saturn’s rings through the 32-foot-long Clark Telescope. And peer through the legendary Pluto Telescope, which helped 24-year-old observatory assistant Clyde Tombaugh discover Pluto in 1930. 

“Of all the planets, only Pluto was discovered in this country, so it’s a neat piece not only of scientific history but American history,” says Schindler.

The Clark Telescope Dome under the night skies at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.

The Clark Telescope Dome under the night skies.

The interactive Space Guard Academy exhibit also is popular, as is Junior Astronomer, a program that allows kids to fill out a packet on-site and receive a patch.

Related story: Two Landmarks That Helped Americans Land on the Moon

For more information:
(928) 774-3358
1400 West Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff, Arizona, 86001


WWII Navajo code talkers - Navajo Veterans Memorial Park, Window Rock, Arizona. Courtesy photo

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