Lowell Observatory's Clark Telescope closes for renovation on January 1

December 27, 2013

Lowell Observatory's iconic Clark Telescope is about to undergo a much-needed facelift. After 117 years of constant use, the instrument will be closed for more than a year as engineers and technicians carefully remove telescope components and repair or replace poorly operating parts.

The Clark was built by the preeminent makers of their time, the Alvan Clark & Sons firm of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. The instrument saw first light on July 23, 1896, and Percival Lowell initially used it to study Mars in support of his controversial theories about life on that planet. Significant research with the Clark included V. M. Slipher's revolutionary discovery of the first evidence of the expanding nature of the universe, the confirmation of Pluto's discovery in 1930 (made by Clyde Tombaugh with another telescope at Lowell Observatory), and creation of lunar maps in the 1960s in support of the Apollo program that sent astronauts to the Moon.

Lowell director Jeff Hall commented, "The Clark Telescope is a national treasure and is Lowell Observatory's first research telescope. Last year, we celebrated first light of our newest eye on the sky, the Discovery Channel Telescope, which will carry us through several more decades of astronomical discoveries, as the Clark did in the early days of Lowell. That makes it an appropriate time to look back and ensure that this telescope that started it all—a lovely old refractor in the wooden dome overlooking Flagstaff—is restored and maintained for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Mars Hill who will look through it in the future."

For the past three decades, the Clark Telescope has been a staple of the Observatory's outreach program. More than one million visitors have seen and/or looked through the Clark, including Flagstaff native Samantha Christensen, who first saw the telescope on trips to the observatory with her family. Now Lowell's Outreach Manager, she said, "The Clark is special to me because I looked through it as a kid. Those experiences helped interest me in science and I'm thrilled that because of this renovation, the Clark will continue to have that sort of impact on other people's lives."

The renovation project is supported in large part by major donations from the Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences and by the late Joseph N. Orr. A successful crowd-sourcing effort also raised significant support, and the Observatory is still accepting donations to complete the work.

Explore further: Lowell Observatory astronomers chase Pluto's shadow across the Pacific ocean

Related Stories

NASA's Webb Telescope components meet 'Big Red'

February 27, 2013

(Phys.org)—"Big Red" isn't a golden retriever or a NASA engineer, it's the nickname for a small chamber that helps ensure equipment can withstand very cold temperatures that would be experienced in space.

E-ELT construction work to start

December 11, 2013

At a ceremony at ESO's Vitacura offices in Santiago on 9 December 2013 the ESO Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, and senior representatives of the Chilean company ICAFAL Ingeniería y Construcción S.A., signed a contract for ...

Recommended for you

Blue skies, frozen water detected on Pluto

October 8, 2015

Pluto has blue skies and patches of frozen water, according to the latest data out Thursday from NASA's unmanned New Horizons probe, which made a historic flyby of the dwarf planet in July.

Orbiter views Mars surface fractures

October 8, 2015

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter often takes images of Martian sand dunes to study the mobile soils. These images provide information about erosion and ...

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2013
Been there a few times as a child, my grandma live a couple of blocks away and made sure I visited a few times. Saw Saturn but luckily I didn't see Uranus.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.