Flagstaff, Ariz. – Officials from Lowell Observatory and Northern Arizona University (NAU) signed paperwork Tuesday formalizing NAU as a Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) partner.
NAU joins current DCT science partners Boston University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Toledo. The DCT is a 4.3-meter instrument, making it the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States. It’s located 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff, near Happy Jack.
Observatory trustee Lowell Putnam and director Jeff Hall joined NAU president John Haeger in signing the documents. “Astronomers from Lowell and NAU have a long history of collaboration and the DCT partnership is a natural outgrowth of this mutually beneficial relationship,” said Putnam, great-grandnephew of Observatory founder Percival Lowell. “I’m glad the two institutions can continue to work together in unraveling the mysteries of the universe.”
Lowell director Jeff Hall added, “The Observatory is delighted to add NAU to the DCT partner group. This is a significant move for both institutions and we look forward to forthcoming research and discoveries.”
The five-year agreement calls for NAU astronomers to have access to the DCT on 80 nights. These scientists will initially use the telescope to study the Kuiper Belt, an area of the solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune that contains icy bodies. This research will continue the efforts by Flagstaff scientists, dating back more than a century, to understand the outer portions of our solar system. The most well-known result of this work was Lowell observer Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto in 1930.
Other Lowell representatives witnessing Tuesday’s ceremony included astronomer Deidre Hunter and advisory board members Mike Beckage and Mike Kitt. NAU participants included Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Laura Huenneke, Dean of College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences Paul Jagodzinski, and Professor of Physics & Astronomy Steve Tegler.
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