Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lowell Observatory has a significant role in the history of astronomy here in the U.S. Not only was Pluto discovered from there, but the theory that canals existed on Mars also originated at Lowell by Lowell himself. While some may discredit Lowell for the canal claim, it did drive others to do more discovery on the planet.

We took the guided tour which was quite fascinating. I really enjoyed examining the antiquated research instruments used in the early 1900s. These instruments are on display in the rotunda museum/library, and include details on how each instrument was used. Probably the most significant instrument was the blinking machine utilized by Tombaugh to compare photographic plates in an effort to locate the planet that would later be called Pluto.

Above was Percival Lowell's first telescope given to him when he was 15 years-old. Below is what resulted when Lowell developed the illness commonly known as Aperture Fever.

The 24-inch Clark Telescope used to see the alleged canals on Mars.

While his observing chair is interesting, note the Ford wheels/tires used for rotating the dome.

The dome.

Cynde thrilled to be in the presence of such astronomical greatness. The enthusiasm on her face says it all. She later said she learned a lot from the guided tour, as did Conner (our oldest). Wish we could've stayed for an evening of viewing so that Conner could star test 24-inch achromat and checked it for color.

Love the spectrograph instrument. I really enjoyed examining the antiquated research instruments.

Clyde Tombaugh's notes on Planet X, later named Pluto.

Pluto's planetary status is a sensitive subject there at Lowell.

The Planetary Camera. Geez...he should've gone with a Lumenera SkyNyx camera instead of this overweight film plate holder.

1 comment:

Laurel Kornfeld said...

Pluto is still a planet. Only four percent of the IAU voted on the controversial demotion, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. One reason the IAU definition makes no sense is it says dwarf planets are not planets at all! That is like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear, and it is inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies. Also, the IAU definition classifies objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were in Pluto’s orbit, according to the IAU definition, it would not be a planet either. A definition that takes the same object and makes it a planet in one location and not a planet in another is essentially useless. Pluto is a planet because it is spherical, meaning it is large enough to be pulled into a round shape by its own gravity--a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium and characteristic of planets, not of shapeless asteroids held together by chemical bonds. These reasons are why many astronomers, lay people, and educators are either ignoring the demotion entirely or working to get it overturned. I am a writer and amateur astronomer and proud to be one of these people. You can read more about why Pluto is a planet and worldwide efforts to overturn the demotion on my Pluto Blog at http://laurele.livejournal.com