Discovery Channel Telescope » DCT Science

 DCT Status, April 22, 2013

First Light

We obtained first light images with Lowell's Discovery Channel Telescope in mid-2012, in time for unveiling at our First Light Gala on July 21, 2012. Over 700 people attended the celebration, which featured a keynote address by Neil Armstrong, making what would be his last public appearance. We were honored by his presence at this turning point in Lowell's history. See our First Light Gala page for photographs and desktop versions of the first light images.

Commissioning Images

The Large Monolithic Imager (LMI), funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, is the DCT's workhorse instrument, featuring a 36 megapixel CCD with a field of view of nearly 13 arc minutes. It is mounted on the back of the instrument cube, at the straight-through position, with other instruments soon to be arrayed around the side ports. Lowell astronomer and instrument Principal Investigator Philip Massey has assembled gallery of commissioning images for you to enjoy and download. These demonstrate the outstanding optical quality of the telescope and apart from the color-compositing, they are completely unretouched.

Early science

With the commissioning phase of the DCT project now proceeding rapidly, we have begun to offer the first science observing nights to Lowell staff and to astronomers from our partner institutions (Boston University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Toledo). Although most nights are still dedicated to commissioning and engineering, we used the DCT on about 10 nights in Q1 2013 and are on track for aboout 15 nights in Q2 and 20 in Q3 for science observing. It is exciting to see our newest eye on the heavens doing so well what it was built to do, and we have obtained image quality as good as 0.6 seconds of arc. Stay tuned as the exciting results begin to accumulate!

Light-weighting of the Discovery Channel Telescope's secondary mirror

M104 - The Sombrero Galaxy. Discovery Channel Telescope First Light Image.

The Discovery Channel Telescope: A unique fusion of research and outreach

Forty miles southeast of Flagstaff at the Happy Jack site, the DCT is complete. This 4.3-meter telescope rises seven stories above the top of a cinder cone. Lowell Observatory and Discovery Communications built this $53 million facility to push the frontier of knowledge and bring the marvels of the cosmos to millions.

The DCT will be Lowell’s flagship research telescope. Through our programming and online content, we’ll bring you an ongoing, inside look at the DCT and its fascinating science.

What’s so special about the DCT?

Lowell astronomers will use the DCT to answer fundamental questions about our universe. In fact, some big questions – for example, how our solar system formed and how dwarf galaxies evolve – are only the beginning. The Ritchey-Chretien (RC) instrument configuration, which will be deployed at “first light,” will allow Lowell astronomers to make spectroscopic and imaging observations simultaneously, answering questions about a wide range of research topics.