Uncle Percy’s Tykes Camp now on second Saturday of each month

Lowell Observatory is pleased to offer the 2013 Uncle Percy’s Tykes Camp. Intended for children ages 3 to 5, these activity-based camps are a hands on exploration of science that include STEM elements to help develop children’s observational skills.  All sessions are held on the second Saturday of the month.

These camps are led by two Lowell educators one Saturday a month from 9:30 am to 11:30 am. Each child receives a notebook to record their activities in, which include games, story time, music, engineering, art, and more!

For more information about the exciting activities, cost, and dates, click here.

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The Starry Skies Shop is online!

After months of working out the bugs and testing, a truncated version of our gift shop and science store, the Starry Skies Shop, is now online and includes Lowell t-shirts, hats, and other souvenirs. Friends of Lowell can shop using their 10 percent member discount here. Get a free reusable Lowell tote bag with your purchase of $50 or more. Want something you don’t see or have a question? Contact retail specialist Diana Weintraub at dweintraub@lowell.edu. Order by COB Thursday and USPS can deliver by 12/25.

Let the digital shopping begin!

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Cool Stars 18 coming to Lowell, Flagstaff in 2014

(Flagstaff, Ariz.) One of the largest and most prestigious astronomy conferences is coming to Flagstaff in 2014.

Lowell Observatory and its hometown, Flagstaff, Arizona, were recently selected to host the next “Cambridge Workshop on Cool Stars, Stellar Systems, and the Sun”, also known as Cool Stars. This biennial conference began in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1980, and is now held at locales around the world.

Cool Stars 18 will take place at the High Country Conference Center, June 8-14, 2014. More than 400 astronomers from around the world are expected to be in attendance. Journalists will be offered complimentary press registration; details will be provided in a future advisory.

“This is a major feather in Flagstaff’s cap,” says the Observatory’s director, Dr. Jeffrey Hall. “From modest beginnings, Cool Stars has grown to become one of the more substantial astronomical conferences, with international renown that attracts the world’s top researchers in the field. We’re delighted to have them here for a week sharing all the latest discoveries and enjoying everything Flagstaff and northern Arizona have to offer.”

Cool Stars gathers worldwide experts in low-mass stars, solar physics and exoplanets, creating a stimulating cross-disciplinary exchange environment in these fields. Cool Star meetings have a long tradition of presenting cutting-edge science, as shown by outstanding results such as the discovery of the first extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, and the first confirmed brown dwarf, which were both first announced at Cool Stars 9 in Florence, Italy in 1995. Lowell astronomer Gerard van Belle is chairing Lowell’s Cool Stars effort. “It is a real honor to have been competitively selected to host this prestigious meeting series,” Dr. van Belle said. “It says a lot about how Lowell is viewed with high esteem in the world astronomy community.”

Since 1993, Cool Stars hosts have alternated across the Atlantic; previous Cool Stars venues include Athens, GA; Barcelona, Spain; Boulder, CO (2 times); Cambridge, MA (4 times); Florence, Italy; Hamburg, Germany; Pasadena, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Seattle, WA (2 times); St. Andrews, Scotland; Tenerife, Spain; and Tucson, AZ.

Cool Stars 17 (CS17) was held this year in Barcelona, Spain. Dr. Mercedes López-Morales, the chairwoman of CS17, noted, “The selection committee in Barcelona was thrilled by Lowell’s proposal to organize Cool Stars 18 in Flagstaff. The combination of science and location were just perfect.”

Media contact: Tom Vitron, Media and Communications Coordinator, Lowell Observatory, 928-233-3260, tvitron[at]lowell.edu

About Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory is a private, non-profit research institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell. The Observatory has been the site of many important findings including the discovery of the large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by V.M. Slipher in 1912-1914 (a result that led ultimately to the realization the universe is expanding), and the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Today, Lowell’s 20 astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. The Observatory welcomes about 80,000 visitors each year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona for a variety of tours, telescope viewing, and special programs. Lowell Observatory currently has four research telescopes at its Anderson Mesa dark-sky site east of Flagstaff, and recently completed a four-meter class research telescope, the Discovery Channel Telescope. For more information, please visit www.lowell.edu.

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Lowell astronomer, collaborators point the way for exoplanet search

(Flagstaff, Ariz.) Though the search for planets around other stars, or exoplanets, is showing researchers that planets are abundant in our galaxy, it helps a great deal to have directions when searching for as-of-yet undiscovered exoplanets.

Lowell astronomer Evgenya Shkolnik and her collaborators have written such a set of directions, if you will.

Their paper, recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, examined new and existing data from stars and brown dwarfs that are less than 300 million years old, as determined from strong X-ray emission readings. In all, the authors identified 144 young targets for exoplanet searches, with 20 very strong candidates, according to Dr. Shkolnik. This candidate list is being searched for planets with Gemini’s NICI Planet-Finding Campaign and the Planets Around Low-Mass Stars survey, led by astronomer Michael Liu and graduate student Brendan Bowler, respectively, both at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai‘i.

By looking for markers in spectroscopic data and measuring the motions of the stars, Shkolnik and her collaborators were able to carefully examine the age of each stars. Since low-mass stars are small and dim, they are good candidates for directly imaging planets around them. And young stars make it even easier since the young planet is still hot and bright. Plus, knowing the planetary system’s age allows for the characterization of the planet itself beyond the initial detection.

The authors sifted through data of about 8,700 stars within 100 light years of the Sun to find these candidates. The spectra were collected using two Hawaiian Mauna Kea telescopes (Keck and the Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes), and distances to the stars were measured by Guillem Anglada-Escude (Universität Göttingen) using the du Pont telescope in Chile, operated by the Carnegie Institution for Science.

“Since low-mass stars are the most common type of star in our galaxy, most planets probably reside in these environments,” says Mr. Bowler. “Finding young versions of these stars to search for planets is fundamental to understanding the galactic census of exoplanets.”

“These young stars help point the way. And if the Jupiter-mass planets are there, we will find them,” notes Dr. Shkolnik.

In this search, planet hunters are happy to have directions but they know the landscape of our understanding is subject to change.

The full list of authors is:

Evgenya L. Shkolnik(1), Guillem Anglada-Escudé(2), Michael C. Liu(3), Brendan P. Bowler(3), Alycia J. Weinberger(4), Alan P. Boss(4), I. Neill Reid(5), and Motohide Tamura(6)

(1) Lowell Observatory, 1400 W. Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA

(2) Institut für Astrophysik, Universität Göttingen, Friedrich-Hund-Platz 1, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany

(3) Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii at Manoa 2680 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

(4) Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, 5241 Broad Branch Road, NW, Washington, DC 20015, USA

(5) Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA

(6) National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Tokyo, Japan

 

Abstract: http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/758/1/56

Online release: http://www.lowell.edu/news/

 

This infrared image was taken at 1.6 microns with the Keck 2 telescope on Mauna Kea. The star is seen here behind a partly transparent coronagraph mask to help bring out faint companions. The mask attenuates the light from the primary by roughly a factor of 1000. The young brown dwarf companion in this image has a mass of about 32 Jupiter masses. The physical separation here is about 120 AU. Also, the primary star was identified as a young star for the first time by Dr. Shkolnik. Image Credit:  B. Bowler/IFA

 

Science contact: Evgenya Shkolnik, Assistant Astronomer, Lowell Observatory, 928-233-3220, shkolnik[at]lowell.edu

Media contact: Chuck Wendt, Deputy Director for Advancement, Lowell Observatory, 928-233-3201, cwendt[at]lowell.edu

 

About Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory is a private, non-profit research institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell. The Observatory has been the site of many important findings including the discovery of the large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by V.M. Slipher in 1912-1914 (a result that led ultimately to the realization the universe is expanding), and the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Today, Lowell’s 20 astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. The Observatory welcomes about 80,000 visitors each year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona for a variety of tours, telescope viewing, and special programs. Lowell Observatory currently has four research telescopes at its Anderson Mesa dark-sky site east of Flagstaff, and recently completed a four-meter class research telescope, the Discovery Channel Telescope. For more information, please visit www.lowell.edu.

 

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Donate to Lowell’s Library/Collections Center Capital Campaign

Lowell Observatory recently announced plans for a new Library and Collections Center which will house the Observatory’s extensive historical collections and provide much-needed library and office space for its growing science and support staff.

For more about this project or to donate, click here.

Thanks for your support!

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Lowell’s NSF-funded Large Monolithic Imager sees first light on the Discovery Channel Telescope

 

Galaxy NGC 891 as imaged by the Large Monolithic Imager (Lowell Observatory)

(Flagstaff, Ariz.) The Large Monolithic Imager (LMI), a camera built at Lowell Observatory and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), recently took a set of first-light images on Lowell’s 4.3-m Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT). At the heart of the LMI is the largest charge-coupled device (CCD) that can be built using current fabrication techniques and the first of its kind to be made by e2v. The 36-megapixel CCD’s active surface is 3.7 inches on a side. The LMI’s ability to provide much more accurate measurements of the faint light around galaxies separates it from cameras that use a mosaic of CCDs to produce images.

The attached first-light image is of NGC 891, an edge-on spiral galaxy about 30 million light-years away in the Andromeda constellation. The image was obtained by Lowell’s Phil Massey, Ted Dunham, and Mike Sweaton, and then turned into a beautiful color composite by Kathryn Neugent. The exposure consisted of 10×1 min (B), 5×1 min (V), and 6×1 min (R), all unguided.

In the coming months, astronomers from Lowell and its DCT institutional partners — Boston University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Toledo — will be getting many more images like this as the Telescope’s commissioning continues.

Science contact: Phil Massey, Astronomer and LMI Principal Investigator, Lowell Observatory, 928-233-3264, phil.massey[at]lowell.edu

Science contact (alternative): Deidre Hunter, Astronomer, Deputy Director for Science and LMI co-Investigator, Lowell Observatory, 928-233-3225, deidre.hunter[at]lowell.edu

Media contact: Chuck Wendt, Deputy Director for Advancement, Lowell Observatory, 928-233-3201, cwendt[at]lowell.edu

 

About the Large Monolithic Imager (LMI)

Built at Lowell Observatory and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the LMI is an all-purpose optical imager featuring a 36-megapixel CCD with a field of view nearly 13 arcminutes by 13 arcminutes. The LMI uses a single chip, which permits more efficient use of observing time (by not dithering), and far less reduction time, resulting in higher scientific throughput. The LMI will serve as the principal imager and workhorse instrument for the DCT, enabling studies from solar system to extragalactic objects. The instrument will allow the determination of the physical properties of comets and also provide the means of investigating the mass-luminosity relationship for both the highest and lowest mass stars. The LMI also sets a precedent for wide-field imaging with monolithic cameras, as well as for more efficient future mosaics. To maximize the field of view, the LMI is mounted at the straight-through position of the DCT’s Ritchey-Chretien instrument cube. The LMI CCD is a 6.1Kx6.1K 15-micron device produced by e2v, their first, with a high DQE 4-layer AR coating. The special coating makes the chip very sensitive over the entire visible spectrum, from the near ultraviolet to the near infrared. The LMI contains 18 filters, including broad-band and specialized interference filters.

A high-resolution version of the NGC 891 image can be found at here. More details about the LMI can be found here.

 

About the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT)

The Discovery Channel Telescope – built by Lowell Observatory near Flagstaff, Arizona – is among the most technically sophisticated ground-based telescopes of its size. The Telescope, the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States, is completed and being commissioned at a dark-sky site on the Coconino National Forest approximately 45 miles SSE of Flagstaff. The project is being undertaken in partnership with Discovery Communications. Construction and commissioning of the telescope and associated infrastructure will cost approximately $53 million. The telescope will significantly augment Lowell Observatory’s observational capability and enable pioneering studies in a number of important research areas. First light took place in May 2012. Institutional DCT partners include Boston University (in perpetuity), the University of Maryland, and the University of Toledo. For more information, please visit www.lowell.edu/dct.php.

 

About Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory is a private, non-profit research institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell. The Observatory has been the site of many important findings including the discovery of the large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1912-1914 (a result that led ultimately to the realization the universe is expanding), and the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Today, Lowell’s 20 astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. The Observatory welcomes about 80,000 visitors each year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona for a variety of tours, telescope viewing, and special programs. Lowell Observatory currently has four research telescopes at its Anderson Mesa dark-sky site east of Flagstaff, and recently completed a four-meter class research telescope, the Discovery Channel Telescope. For more information, please visit www.lowell.edu.

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Dava Sobel book signing

On Saturday, Sept. 15 at 8 PM, renowned author Dava Sobel will sign copies of her books. Regular admission applies.

At 7 PM, Sobel presents a talk about her latest book, “A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos.” In her talk, Sobel will discuss why she chose to treat the period of the Copernican Revolution as a play-within-a-book. Her drama, ”And the Sun Stood Still,” imagines how Copernicus was convinced to publish his theory of a Sun-centered universe. After a short Q&A session, Sobel will sign copies of this book.

LIMITED SEATING IS AVAILABLE FOR THE TALK AND A SIMULCAST OF THE TALK. Tickets, which are regular admission price, must be purchased ahead of time at the Starry Skies Shop at Lowell. On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the Shop is open 9 AM to 9:30 PM. On Thursday, the Shop is open 9 AM to 5 PM.

Please check this blog for ticket availability updates.

*As of Friday at noon, tickets are still available but going fast!*

In addition to this presentation, view breathtaking celestial objects through telescopes and enjoy exciting multimedia programs.

Program note: Lowell educator Glen Bessonette’s History Series talk, “V. M. Slipher, the Man Who Discovered the Expanding Universe” was scheduled for this time but has been cancelled.

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“Scanning the Skies: The Discovery Channel Telescope” premieres Sunday, September 9 at 7 PM ET/PT

It’s official! “Scanning the Skies: The Discovery Channel Telescope” will premiere on Discovery Channel Sunday, September 9 at 7 PM ET/PT. It will run again on both Discovery and the Science Channel.

For more, see Discovery’s press release.

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Origins of the Expanding Universe Conference

September 17, 2012 marks the one hundredth anniversary of V. M. Slipher’s first observation of cosmological redshifts with the 24-inch Alvan Clark refractor at Lowell Observatory. This was one of the fundamental astronomical observations of the twentieth century, ultimately leading to the development of Big Bang cosmology.

To commemorate this historic observation, we are holding a conference from September 13-15 entitled Origins of the Expanding Universe. The registration fee is $190 and registration closes Friday, August 10. We encourage you to browse the workshop website, which includes an online registration page.

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The Discovery Channel Telescope Sees ‘First Light’

M109, a spiral barred galaxy

M104, The Sombrero Galaxy

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy

 

– Gala Opening at Lowell Observatory –

(Silver Spring, Md.; Flagstaff, Ariz.) Discovery Communications and Lowell Observatory today are proud to officially usher in the beginning of the Discovery Channel Telescope era with ‘The First Light Gala,’ this Saturday, July 21. The event celebrates the successful fruition of a two-decades-long visionary effort by the private, non-profit Lowell Observatory to construct a world-class, state-of-the-art research instrument for the 21st century.

“The Discovery Channel Telescope is emblematic of our mission to ignite curiosity and stir the imagination of audiences here and around the globe,” said John Hendricks, Founder and Chairman of Discovery Communications.  The telescope represents ‘discovery’ in both word and deed and we are thrilled to see the amazing places it will take us with breathtaking images and vital new research.”

The celebration also honors a decade-long commitment from Discovery Communications founder and major Lowell Observatory contributor John Hendricks, and his wife, Maureen, whose generous support was indispensable in constructing the $53 million, 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope, which was completed without any state or federal funding. The collaboration between Lowell Observatory and Discovery Communications will be featured on-air in a one-hour special on Discovery Channel in early September 2012, which will document the planning and construction of the telescope.

“The First Light Gala is a historic event in the annals of Lowell Observatory,” says Dr. Jeffrey Hall, director of Lowell Observatory. “It marks completion of our spectacular new research facility, initiation of superb projects that will bring our research to millions through our partnership with Discovery Communications. We are honored to be part of it and grateful to all who have helped make it a reality.”

Along with remarks from dignitaries such as Dr. Hall, Mr. Hendricks, Lowell Observatory sole trustee William Lowell Putnam III, and a keynote speech from former astronaut and first human to set foot on the Moon, Mr. Neil Armstrong, the First Light Gala is featuring “first light” images taken in May with the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT).

The images, along with special video presentations by the Observatory, Discovery, and Mr. Armstrong, will be presented to approximately 700 attendees, including representatives from the DCT’s “first light” institutional partners Boston University (which signed an in-perpetuity agreement with a contribution approaching that of Discovery), the University of Maryland, and the University of Toledo. Other dignitaries making remarks include Lowell Observatory director emeritus Dr. Robert Millis and major project contributor Mr. John Giovale. The master of ceremonies is Mr. Charles Wendt, the Observatory’s deputy director for advancement.

Lowell Observatory is pleased to welcome dignitaries from state and local government, project contractors and event sponsors, current and former Observatory employees and volunteers, Friends of Lowell, and all those who have donated to the construction and acquisition of all the elements needed for this unique project. Testing and commissioning of the Discovery Channel Telescope, which is located 45 miles southeast of Flagstaff near Happy Jack, AZ, will continue for at least another 18 months, as is typical with four- meter class telescopes. Structured scientific research is expected to begin in 2013 or 2014.

Press contact: Chuck Wendt, Deputy Director for Advancement, cwendt[at]lowell.edu, (928) 233-3201

About Discovery Channel

Discovery Channel is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. The network, which is distributed to 100.1 million U.S. homes, can be seen in over 180 countries, offering a signature mix of compelling, high-end production values and vivid cinematography across genres including, science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world. For more information, please visitwww.discovery.com.

About Discovery Communications

Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is the world’s number one nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 180 countries. Discovery empowers people to explore their world and satisfy their curiosity through 100-plus worldwide networks, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Investigation Discovery, Planet Green and HD Theater, as well as leading consumer and educational products and services, and a diversified portfolio of digital media services including HowStuffWorks.com. For more information, please visit www.discoverycommunications.com.

About Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory is a private, non-profit research institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell. The Observatory has been the site of many important findings including the discovery of the large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1912-1914 (a result that led ultimately to the realization the universe is expanding), and the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Today, Lowell’s 20 astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. The Observatory welcomes about 80,000 visitors each year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona for a variety of tours, telescope viewing, and special programs. Lowell Observatory currently has four research telescopes at its Anderson Mesa dark-sky site east of Flagstaff, and recently completed a four-meter class research telescope, the Discovery Channel Telescope. For more information, please visit www.lowell.edu.

About the Discovery Channel Telescope

The Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) – being built by Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona – will be among the most technically sophisticated ground-based telescopes of its size. The Telescope, the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States, is completed and being commissioned at a dark-sky site on the Coconino National Forest approximately 45 miles SSE of Flagstaff. The project is being undertaken in partnership with Discovery Communications. Construction and commissioning of the telescope and associated infrastructure will cost approximately $53 million. The telescope will significantly augment Lowell Observatory’s observational capability and enable pioneering studies in a number of important research areas. First light, or first scientific use of the telescope, took place in May 2012.

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