Lowell Observatory's iconic Clark Telescope is about to undergo a much-needed facelift. After 117 years of constant use, the instrument will be closed for more than a year as engineers and technicians carefully remove telescope components and repair or replace poorly operating parts.
The Clark was built by the preeminent telescope makers of their time, the Alvan Clark & Sons firm of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. The instrument saw first light on July 23, 1896, and Percival Lowell initially used it to study Mars in support of his controversial theories about life on that planet. Significant research with the Clark included V. M. Slipher's revolutionary discovery of the first evidence of the expanding nature of the universe, the confirmation of Pluto's discovery in 1930 (made by Clyde Tombaugh with another telescope at Lowell Observatory), and creation of lunar maps in the 1960s in support of the Apollo program that sent astronauts to the Moon.
Lowell director Jeff Hall commented, "The Clark Telescope is a national treasure and is Lowell Observatory's first research telescope. Last year, we celebrated first light of our newest eye on the sky, the Discovery Channel Telescope, which will carry us through several more decades of astronomical discoveries, as the Clark did in the early days of Lowell. That makes it an appropriate time to look back and ensure that this telescope that started it all—a lovely old refractor in the wooden dome overlooking Flagstaff—is restored and maintained for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Mars Hill who will look through it in the future."
More of the story, click image