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

(Pixabay Photo)...
Steve Kates

Heads up! Atmospheric optics are around on a regular basis

The skies are full of amazing sights other than the stars, planets and distant celestial objects - we're talking atmospheric optics.
1 day ago
(NASA Photo)...
Steve Kates

Red letter days ahead in December as Mars moves closer to Earth

During the month of December, expect to hear a lot about Mars and how best to view it and learn about it.
8 days ago
(Pixabay Photos)...
Steve Kates

It’s not a Thanksgiving turkey in the sky – that’s Cygnus the Swan

Point a pair of binoculars toward the sky on Thanksgiving night and find the magnificent Cygnus the Swan constellation.
15 days ago
NASA's new moon rocket lifts off from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral,...
Steve Kates

Everything you need to know about NASA’s Artemis I rocket to the moon

The long-awaited launch of the NASA Artemis 1 moon rocket has finally happened!
22 days ago
This Crab Nebula mosaic image was taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA/ESA Image)...
Steve Kates

The magic of constellation Taurus includes open star clusters

As we move deeper into the skies of autumn, we come across the zodiac sign of Taurus the Bull.
29 days ago
(NASA Image)...
Steve Kates

Taurid meteor shower could bring in colorful fireball season in coming days

With Halloween behind us and the prospect of a new set of November events to look forward to in our skies, we present fireball season 2022!
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Discovery Channel Telescope is part of Arizona’s rich astronomy history