On the Road with Tom and Gloria travel blog


Percival Lowell's first telescope

Pluto Discovery Telescope



A arrived at The Lowell Observatory at 9:45- just in time to go on the 10 am "Mars tour" followed by the 11 am "Pluto tour" and culminating in a noon solar viewing.

In 1894 Percival Lowell, a wealthy Bostonian who was obsessed with the notion of life on Mars, established this observatory. In 1912, V.M. Slipher discovers the spectrum of Andromeda which led to the idea of an expanding universe. According to our guide this was a most important discovery and yet no one knows this man's name! Because of the many calculations and prolific notes taken by Percival Lowell, astronomers at the Observatory were convinced that there were other planets to be discovered. A new telescope had to be built so Lowell's only brother who was President of Harvard donated $10,000 for that purpose. The entire sum was spent on the telescope and the building housing it - no money was left to pay an astronomer's salary. There weren't many applicants for a job with no pay until 1930 when Clyde Tombaugh came along. He was an amateur astronomer who kept sending photos he had taken from his telescope and said he would work for room and board. The professionals on staff were shocked when this "hobbyist" was hired and basically gave him a sarcastic "good luck" when he arrived. Ten months later he discovered Pluto. The name Pluto was suggested by an 11 year old British girl named Venetia Burney. Since all planets ( except Earth) were historically named for Roman gods or goddesses, Pluto - god of the underworld - fit the bill PLUS the first two letters were PL - a fitting tribute to Percival Lowell. Pluto is now considered a "dwarf planet".

There have been many more important discoveries here since Pluto. A new telescope, The Discovery Channel Telescope, was built and opened in May, 2012. It is not on this part of the property and one has to make an appointment in order to visit.

At noon we got to look through a telescope with a special lens that enabled us to look directly at the sun. I saw a huge red ball with little squiggles coming off at the nine o'clock reference point . Fascinating!

Took the scenic route to Sedona - 89A Oak Creek Canyon . Not only is this a sometimes challenging drive with lots of ess curves but there are no pull offs. All this wonderful scenery and no place to park and take a picture. Saw a few going north but none going south - not until you are right outside of Sedona.

I checked out Slide Rock State Park. The walkway down to the creek was not to my liking so I didn't go all the way to where the 80ft slippery shoot of worn sandstone was. My picture is from as close as I could get.

No internet at the hotel last night and I was having trouble with my air card so I was not able to make a journal entry until now.

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