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

Oct 31, 2018, 2:00 PM

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.

Dr. Sky Blog

This illustration made available by Johns Hopkins APL and NASA depicts NASA's DART probe, foregroun...
Steve Kates

DART asteroid deflection mission had all eyes on planetary defense

All eyes were on the skies Monday as a tiny spacecraft launched from earth last November attempted to deflect an asteroid.
4 days ago
(Unsplash Photo)...
Steve Kates

Mark your stargazing calendar for these upcoming October treats

As the year moves on, the skies of October will be some of the best that Arizona can offer!
11 days ago
The Strawberry Supermoon sets in front of the NASA Artemis rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard ...
Steve Kates

‘Cancer moonshot’ brings back memories of JFK space-race speech 60 years ago this week

President John F. Kennedy gave a speech 60 years ago to set a goal of sending men to the moon. Now, NASA is returning to the moon.
18 days ago
(Public Domain Pictures Photo)...
Steve Kates

Here’s how you can get a great view of the harvest moon Sept. 9

One of the most memorable of the full moons of 2022 is the upcoming harvest moon! Look for the rising harvest moon on the evening of Sept. 9.
25 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Steve Kates

September skies feature harvest moon, 4 of the planets for viewing

With fall just around the corner and the traditional end of the summer monsoon season, we will soon return to those great Arizona skies.
1 month ago
Liftoff of NASA's Space Launch System rocket and integrated Orion spacecraft is targeted for 8:33 a...
Steve Kates

Upcoming launch of Artemis I moon rocket kicks off another moon quest

The next great leap to space will occur soon with the launch of the Artemis I moon rocket.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Discovery Channel Telescope is part of Arizona’s rich astronomy history