FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Lowell Observatory’s iconic Clark Telescope is set to
experience a much-needed facelift.
After Monday, the telescope will be removed and will undergo a restoration for
more than a year as engineers and technicians carefully remove telescope
components and repair or replace poorly operating parts, the Arizona Daily Sun
The body will have to be removed by crane and each piece meticulously
catalogued then refurbished. New pieces must be hand-fabricated.
To restore the Clark, Lowell launched an online fundraising campaign this year.
“We will continue to do tours in (the Clark dome) while we work,” said Lowell
Observatory spokesman Kevin Schindler. However, he said nighttime viewing will
happen elsewhere on site.
And while Lowell’s substitute public telescope — the 16-inch McAllister — provides about the same quality views, its ambiance and history can’t compare.
The Clark’s great white dome has been a hallmark of the Flagstaff skyline since
1896, two years after Percival Lowell decided to have his observatory built atop
The telescope was protected with a massive wooden dome that was eventually
perched on old truck tires for easy rotation.
The telescope is named for its maker, Alvan Clark, whose work defined
state-of-the-art telescopes in his day. His masterpieces also include telescopes
at the famous Yerkes, Lick and Dearborn observatories.
By the 1970s, technological advances and new telescopes meant the Clark had
stopped being a primarily scientific instrument. Since then, the telescope has
hosted mostly schoolchildren, local sky-watchers and tourists. Lowell
Observatory estimates that about 1 million people have looked through the
telescope in that time. That heavy use has taken its toll, officials said.
As part of the restoration, the telescope’s century-old wiring will be replaced
to prevent sparking wires from burning down the wooden dome. The dome’s
shutters, nearly impossible to open as they are now, will also be repaired along
with the telescope’s broken tracking system.
“The Clark Telescope is a national treasure and is Lowell Observatory’s first
research telescope,” said Lowell director Jeff Hall. “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.”
Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, http://www.azdailysun.com/