The Lowell Observatory

Well, here I am back in Blighty after the  conference celebrating  Vesto M. Slipher. The return trip went remarkably smoothly – no hassles at the airport at either end, and all pretty well on time. When I arrived in Flagstaff last Thursday evening I missed the reception that took place in the Lowell Observatory, but fortunately had time on Sunday morning to have a look around the site, on “Mars Hill”, and take a few pictures.

First and foremost with regard to the topic of the conference, here is  a picture of the actual spectrograph used by Vesto Slipher to measure the radial velocity of the Andromeda Nebula (M31), which he actually did 100 years ago today, on 17th September 1912. I had a bit of a struggle with the reflection on the case, but you can see  it’s a beautiful piece of kit:

Here’s one of me standing outside the dome that houses the 24″ Clark Refractor that Slipher used for his spectrographic studies:

And just to remind you that the site isn’t famous only for Slipher’s work, here is the dome housing the 13″ astrographic telescope that was used in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh to discover Pluto.

Here’s my chauffeur for the day, Prof. Peacock, with the rusting remains of a 42″ telescope:

Of course the Lowell Observatory is named after Percival Lowell (known to his friends as “Percy”) a flamboyant character who founded it in 1894. Lowell did many great things for astronomy, but unfortunately he is mostly remembered these days for his erroneous observations of “canals” on Mars.


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