“You Can Observe A Lot By Watching”

“You Can Observe A Lot By Watching”

A quick curving ascent of pavement above the City of Flagstaff Arizona, just before dusk.  A visit to the  Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff Arizona on the day of the Geminoid Meteor Showers.

Here is how the Lowell Observatory describes itself:

Lowell Observatory, founded by Perceival Lowell in 1894, is a private, non-profit institution dedicated to the research and education in astronomy. Home of many important astronomical discoveries including the first evidence of the expansion of the universe and discovery of the planet Pluto., Lowell Observatory continues as an active major research observatory today. Sharing our founder’s conviction that scientist bear an obligation to convey their work in a way that all interested people can appreciate, the Observatory also offers educational programs to school children, and the general public.

Here is how I describe the visit to the Lowell Observatory:

A day to savor as a time so filled to the brim, overflowing with wonder and  cool.  Of humans embracing and chasing curiosity, talent, and the very universe. Being at the Lowell Observatory opened me to both remember and consider anew about just how much bigger the Story unfolding is than my own experience.  A day full up with a strong infusion of inspiration

First we attended lectures on The Solar System, and another Stars and Galaxies. The young women who presented  were knowledgeable, well spoken, and passionate about their love of space and exploration. Learned so much, including that the, much photographed by me, moon was once a part of the earth and broke away;  the three qualifications to be considered a planet are : It is in orbit around the Sun. It has sufficient mass to assume hydro-static equilibrium (a nearly round shape). It must also  “clear the neighborhood” around its orbit which means it is  gravitationally in charge in its vicinity in space.

Next visited, the Putman Collection where the Science Library, artifacts, and collections are offered. Just a glimpse of a few of the displayed treasures:

Including the  centerpiece in the lobby –  Percival Lowell’s 1911 Stevens-Duryea automobile. “Big Red” was Lowell’s state-of-the-art “horseless carriage” which still appears in local parades:

Then to the telescopes to see what is currently in the sky!

The McAllister Telescope, a reflecting telescope with a Cassegrain optical system featuring a 16- inch primary mirror. The largest telescope I have personally ever seen.  The dials and mechanics mesmerize and dare me to figure out how they work together to show the very stars. Once again a Guide to knowledgeably/ enthusiastically explain, and assists in using the telescope. Adrenaline push and a happy dance;  then yet another look  into timelessness  with gratitude and high spirits step out into the cold fresh high altitude pine scented Flagstaff air. A short  walk to The Clark Telescope Dome:

The Clark Telescope Dome was built in 1896 by local bicycle repairmen Godfrey and Stanley Sykes. There is much local Ponderosa Pine in the construction and has the look and feel of love, artistic attention as well as sustainability of  Italian Cathedrals.  The Clark Telescope surprised me with it’s size, dwarfing,  the just minutes ago largest ever I”d seen,  McAllister Telescope. The Clark Telescope built in 1896 was the instrument used when the first evidence of the universe expanding was discovered. To have the opportunity to not only photograph this beautiful piece of equipment, but to watch it in motion as the dome is opened. Consider the Sykes brothers as chains, wheels,  and gears smoothly swing the scope into the place and yet another set of instruments to be adjusted and set. Then the  Guide offers a look, and there I am gone clear through space to see clear to turquoise blue Uranus. That’s right ! No words to use to describe to you the positive sea-change shift that such a look into space gives. Using the telescope that was used to discover the expansion the universe. Can you give me an Amen!

The night continued with a careful drive down Oak Creek Canyon with raccoons,deer, and skunk on the move and the Geminid Meteor Shower in dazzling full swing overhead. The energizing fullness and wonder of this visit to the Lowell Observatory remains.

I wish to take this time to thank you for your support, kind words, and interest in the success of JoHannaMassey.com in 2017. I enjoy visiting with you here, and on your websites whose quality challenge me to do better, teach and inform me daily, surprise me and make me laugh and provide a very real sense of a global community through WordPress. Such a diversity and exchange of ideas and people to appreciate and consider. May each and everyone  of you experience and share Joy and Peace during  this Holiday Season. Again, thank you. – JoHanna

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  1. Joy and Peace to you as well, JoHanna. I really enjoyed your post. It’s truly amazing what astronomy has discovered over the past century. Your visit reminds me of one Peggy and I made to the radio astronomy center in New Mexico last year. Like you, we found our visit a delight. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I very real indication of how out of touch I am was my assuming that the Lowell Observatory would be crowded with families making a big deal event of the Meteor Shower. Instead, the place was just about deserted. Which was great after a morning/afternoon spent with lots of other folks out Christmas shopping downtown. Thank you for stopping by. All my best to you during the holidays.


    1. Thank you dear Nancy. This is a must see for Grandchildren. They do a presentation with many movable telescopes in addition to the large ones featured in the post which would just really charge young ones interest in space. I also enjoyed the fact that the lectures and hands on the Clark Scope had knowledgeable women pursuing careers in the study of astronomy. Enjoy the holidays dear Nancy.

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  2. I love the Clark telescope! Such a testament to vintage astronomy. This place has a special place in my heart. It’s where my son met his wife and started his current star journey toward being an astronomer. Their good friend was instrumental in setting up the Putnam Collection before she moved. I’m so happy to see you were able to enjoy this fascinating place.

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    1. Thank you so very much for sharing this story of your connection to the Lowell Observatory. I can see where high romance could certainly spark there. Or young imaginations get fired into focus seeing what and where an interest in the stars can lead. A great contribution to this photo/essay. Thank you once again.

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  3. Oh wow JoHanna I would love to go here…I’d spend days here. How thrilling it must have been to see Uranus. I was watching the skies during the meteor showers and I saw 2 during the Orionids and 1 during the Geminid. They said there would be 100s per hour…how awesome to have those telescopes handy to see through. I love all your pics at the end…boy you were so lucky to have captured Santa and his reindeer going by!! Imagine those two bicycle repairmen designing and then building that dome…what imaginations and creativity!! Thanks for sharing all of this!! Have a wonderful rest of your week!! xo

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    1. Thank you Deb. The word inspire gets used a lot for many a reason. I have to say this was truly an Big Inspiring day with staying power. So glad you got to see some meteors, and enjoyed this photo/essay. All my best to you, Deb, for this New Year. – JoHanna

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  4. What an experience. I liked your description of the visit – “a strong infusion of inspiration.” I would have loved to sit in on those lectures. My brother was a keen astronomer and was left a telescope when he was eight by the man who probably filled him with his love of the universe. We visited a few observatories as a result when we were kids but sadly I was not that interested in such things at the time. Now I see things differently and appreciate you taking me on tour with you. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The lectures were so interesting. Enough so, that I am going to be regularly checking the Observatory website to see what future lectures and speakers will be featured, and making a serious effort to show up when something interesting catches my attention. Your brother and Lowell share a common denominator in that they were both gifted a telescope at a young age, and the imagination and curiosity for the cosmos were fired up brightly enough to carry them forward into adulthood. Thank you for contributing to the discussion, and your kind words.

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