The region of Flagstaff, Arizona, is known not only for its epic sights of the Grand Canyon but also for Lowell Observatory, the site of some of the most important astronomy discoveries in the history of the United States.
Known far and wide as one of the oldest sites of space observation in the United States, the observatory is the site of revolutionary scientific discoveries both by its founder, Percival Lowell, and others. The observatory was founded in 1894 and has enjoyed more than a century of experimentation and discovery. Today, it sits high above the painted Arizona landscape, still a hallmark of science just two hours from Kingman, AZ, RV parks.
Discoveries at Lowell Observatory
Percival Lowell was a pioneer of space exploration long before humankind set foot beyond Earth’s atmosphere. The location of the observatory is perfect for examining the night sky; it is more than 7,000 feet above sea level and enjoys crystalline skies almost year-round.
Lowell’s primary aim in founding the observatory was to examine Mars for signs of intelligent life. He believed that the channels visible on the Martian surface were built, not formed by nature, and therefore a sign of an unseen civilization. Although Lowell never found proof of his theory, he penned three studies on Mars and paved the way for a host of other scientific discoveries during his 15 years of observation. One of the most remarkable was the discovery of Pluto. Observing the patterns of Neptune and Uranus, Lowell theorized that their gravitational pull was affected by a third undiscovered planet. The observatory would later become home to many other discoveries by other scientists, as well.
Things to Do at the Observatory
Today, the observatory draws more than 80,000 visitors every year to enjoy its sights, lectures, science demonstrations, and tours. There, visitors can see many objects from the history of the observatory on display, including Lowell’s original telescope, complete with its century-old setup atop his wife’s frying pan. Lowell himself is buried on the observatory grounds in the mausoleum designed by his family.
The observatory also holds four telescopes that are still used by scientists today for their ongoing research. Visitors can look through these to view the stars, planets, and even the sun with special vision protection. On certain nights, Lowell Observatory hosts outdoor programs where tourists can view the Arizona night sky and learn how to navigate the heavens. There are also regular programs scheduled to teach visitors about space exploration and discovery, the planets of the solar system, and the history of the observatory.
In addition to all this, daily Lowell Observatory Flagstaff tours allow tourists to explore the grounds, look through the telescopes, and take a walk through the Rotunda Museum, which contains antique items significant to the history of the observatory. On certain days, there are also opportunities to watch and learn about science experiments and their importance to astronomy. The observatory is also host to the Junior Astronomer Program and the Lowell Observatory Camp for Kids, programs designed to shape the next generation of space explorers and pioneers.
The greater area of Flagstaff is known for its canyon views, but the amazing earth formations and painted landscapes are not the only things the region has to offer. With its crystal-clear Arizona skies, Flagstaff is the perfect place for observing the heavens and learning about the solar system, just as Percival Lowell did as he paved the way for a century of space exploration. If you are a space enthusiast, Lowell Observatory is one more amazing place to visit when camping near Flagstaff, Arizona.