Tuesday, February 7, 2012
By Douglas McDaniel
A lot more people, it seems, have their eyes to the skies lately, with comets, solar storms, and possible earth-like worlds to explore.
Soon, the Discovery Channel telescope, forty miles southeast of Flagstaff, a project in conjunction with the Lowell Observatory, will become a $53 million facility intended to bring the mysteries of the cosmos to the masses.
The Discovery Channel plans to air its first major feature on the DCT in June 2012, the web site for Lowell states.
Though the Lowell Observatory is in Flagstaff, the so-called "DCT Telescope" will be "Lowell's flagship research telescope." The 4.3-meter telescope, located "seven stories above the top of a cinder cone," according to officials at Lowell, is currently undergoing full optical system testing, and a secondary mirror was installed in January.
"We are testing the performance of the primary mirror and the active optics system using a camera assembly mounted at the prime focus," the site states. " This also allows testing of the mount pointing model and telescope control system. Except for some minor problems, everything so far has gone well. Star acquisition has been reliable and tracking steady."
The intent of the highly powerful telescope, high above Flagstaff, is to explore the marvels of deep space: quasars, dark matter, what E.T. is watching on its own planet, you know, the big stuff.
"At this time, we remain on schedule for first light in May 2012," according to Lowell officials.
So that makes June universe in better focus month, for stargazers watching it all from the comfort of their space capsules at home.
"Lowell astronomers will use the DCT to answer fundamental questions about our universe. In fact, some big questions – for example, how our solar system formed and how dwarf galaxies evolve – are only the beginning."
Lowell Observatory is located at 1400 West Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff, Arizona. Admission is $11 for adults; $9 for for students and AAA seniors; $4 for ages five to 17 (under five free). Hours: Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat: Noon – 9:30 p.m.; Tue, Thu, Sun: Noon – 5 p.m
Monday, February 6, 2012
The DCT will be Lowell’s flagship research telescope. Through our programming and online content, we’ll bring you an ongoing, inside look at the DCT and its fascinating science.