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Pluto Discovery Telescope in Flagstaff reopens after renovations

FILE - In this 1931 file photo, Clyde Tombaugh poses with the telescope through which he discovered the Pluto at the Lowell Observatory on Observatory Hill in Flagstaff, Ariz. (AP Photo)

PHOENIX – The Pluto Discovery Telescope at Lowell Observatory has reopened for the first time in a year after undergoing renovations.

The telescope in Flagstaff was made famous on Feb. 18, 1930 when Clyde Tombaugh used it to discover Pluto.

Now, the 90-year-old instrument has undergone extensive restoration work, which included nearly every part of the telescope and even the dome that surrounds it.

“It’s a beautiful telescope,” Ralph Nye, a member of the restoration team, told the Arizona Daily Sun. “This is the way it should look.”

The reopening was March 10.

The restoration project began last year, with the team cleaning and then reusing original hardware used to build the telescope. According to Peter Rosenthal, another member of the restoration team, very little needed to be replaced.

Nye and Rosenthal told the Sun that the project was finished on time and met the $155,000 budget.

The process was similar to that of the restoration project to the Clark telescope in 2014 and 2015.

The team patched and repainted the dome’s stucco interior, restoring the rotting wood shutters with custom panels.

Once the team ripped up the old carpet that surrounded the Pluto telescope, they found tin cans covering holes in the worn floor.

The telescope itself is known as an astrographic camera, with three lenses that focus light onto a single glass photographic plate.

Each image requires an exposure time of one hour, which, according to Rosenthal, would have been grueling for Clyde Tombaugh during the winter with the dome’s shutters open.

With the restoration efforts complete, the dome is prepared to reopen, giving visitors an opportunity to stand in the exact location Tombaugh did 88 years ago when he discovered the dwarf planet.

More information on the observatory can be found on its Facebook page.

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