DR. SKY BLOG

Discovery Channel Telescope is part of Arizona’s rich astronomy history

Oct 31, 2018, 2:00 PM
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Arizona has a natural affinity with telescopes both large and small. Some of the most amazing discoveries are being made right here in some of the clearest skies in the nation.

Welcome to the Discovery Channel Telescope, located some 40 miles south of Flagstaff.

The telescope facility is located near the tiny community of Happy Jack, deep in the Coconino National Forest at an elevation of some 7,740 feet above sea level.

The Discovery Channel Telescope has a main mirror of around 14 feet in diameter and is the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States.

Funds for the telescope were procured from a generous grant from Discovery Communications founder and former CEO John Hendricks of and his foundation.

The concept for this amazing eye on the sky was set in motion in 2003.

The primary mirror blank was completed back in 2005 by the famous Corning corporation.

This massive mirror was then aluminized and mounted in the telescope in August 2011.

The telescope was further tested, and “first light” was conducted July 21, 2012.

First light is the moment that a telescope is set into motion by opening the dome, removing the cover on the mirror and getting the massive machine to capture the light of its first object.

The first light image in the Discovery Channel Telescope was the galaxy known as M109.

Some additional history is worth sharing here too.

A major gala was held to celebrate this special event on the day of first light at the Flagstaff High Country Conference Center.

The special guest was Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

It was one of the last events Armstrong spoke at before his death on Aug. 25, 2012.

I will never forget that date, as I was on the air doing another radio show when my producer mentioned to me that he heard Armstrong had just passed.

I turned on the TV monitor in the studio and heard and saw something that will always stay with me, as a national host told the audience that the first man on the moon, Neil Young, had just passed.

A correction was made — minutes later.

How could we forget the name of that man?

The Discovery Channel Telescope is one of a large group of telescopes which are all part of the great Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.

The facility is a great place to take your family and learn all about the rich history of astronomy in Arizona.

My professor in college was Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto at the Lowell Observatory on Feb. 18, 1930.

Arizona has a great legacy to the skies.

Listen to Dr. Sky on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

To print your very own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

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Discovery Channel Telescope is part of Arizona’s rich astronomy history