April 9 lecture: Lowell Observatory

April 9, 2021, 7:30 p.m. Via Zoom

Discovery at Lowell: The Past, Present, and Future of Lowell Observatory
Kevin Schindler — Lowell Observatory

The wealthy Bostonian Percival Lowell established Lowell Observatory in 1894 in Flagstaff, Arizona. Percival came from a distinguished eastern family – his brother Abbott was president of Harvard for 24 years and his three sisters included the poet Amy Lowell. Percival graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. After spending six years working for his grandfather and 10 years in the Orient, he decided in 1894 to build an observatory initially to study the planet Mars.

Through the years, the Observatory has been home to many discoveries, including the first detection of the expanding nature of the universe, the discovery of Pluto, moon mapping for the Apollo program to the moon, the rings of Uranus, atmosphere of Pluto, and scores of others.

Lowell Observatory is recognized as a Registered National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. In 2011 Time magazine named Lowell one of “The World’s 100 Most Important Places.”

Lowell is an active world-class astronomy research center, utilizing a number of modern instruments including the 4.1-meter Discovery Telescope. Lowell’s mission includes an astonishing amount of live and on-line education and outreach to locals, visitors, and to Arizona’s Native American communities. The Lowell web site lowell.edu offers many live and streamed programs.

In 2014 Lowell Observatory took a major step toward ensuring this heritage is preserved by opening the Putnam Collection Center. This facility will ultimately house the Observatory’s vast collection of documents and artifacts. Some of these treasures include correspondence with such luminaries as Einstein and Hubble, Percival Lowell’s cherished Mars globes, one of the original Pluto discovery plates, and Percival Lowell’s 1911 Stevens-Duryea automobile. In 2019 the Giovale Open-Deck Observatory was opened, with six high-quality telescopes set up for nightly outreach and even on-line live video astronomy. Lowell is completely rebuilding its visitor’s center, and the new Astronomy Discovery Center will open in 2023.

Kevin Schindler has been associated with the Observatory for more than twenty years. He is its official Historian, and has written several books about Lowell, its history and its scientific output.