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telescope viewing at night
Photo Credit: guyonthego

Lowell Observatory

1400 W Mars Hill Road Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Hours vary by season, generally Mon.-Sat. 9:00am-9:30pm & Sun. 9:00am-5:00pm.
928-774-3358 Half day
August 2014 Summer, Fall, Spring
$10-29 Flagstaff Arizona
Website Recreation Star Gazing
First review
Lowell Observatory is a multifaceted science and educational facility primarily based in Flagstaff. The observatory includes several historic telescopes which are open to the public, an exhibit hall, gift shop, public tours of the campus, evening viewing programs and a more modern telescope called the Discovery Channel Telescope, which is located about 40 miles away from the main campus and is open for visits with prior arrangements.

The observatory was founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell, who owned a textile business. Percival built the observatory to further his keen interest in astronomy, in particular to learn more about Mars. The observatory later was involved with notable advances in astronomy, including the eventual discovery of Pluto and also in research that proved the Universe was expanding. The observatory’s mission expanded overtime to include both research and public education. The initial 24 inch telescope at the main campus is undergoing renovation in 2014 but should again be available for public viewing in early 2015.

There are public events offered and facilities open both during the day and at night, and it’s worth visiting at both times if you can. The main day events are a Mars Tour and a Pluto Tour. The Mars Tour covers Percival’s interest in that planet, discussion about spectroscopy (the study of light), and a visit to the 24 inch telescope when it’s back in service. The Pluto Tour, which is better, includes a visit to the telescope used to discover that planet and a walk on pathways with information about the Solar System and the Galaxy. These pathways are definitely worth checking out even if you skip the Pluto Tour. After 5:00pm there are presentations on constellations and the universe. A live presentation on Neptune also was offered at the time. Telescopes are later set up to provide views of planets and stars. An exhibit hall which is open both during the day and at night had insightful displays about space telescopes so is worth checking out as well. Note that you also can mix and match activities at night depending on your interests. For most people the telescope viewing will have greater appeal than the constellation presentation as it is more dynamic and impressive. However, for both a casual observer and a hardcore astronomy buff, this observatory can offer something of interest. It’s also a good bet for kids as the programs are educational without being too obtuse or academic.
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