It is credited with discovering Pluto and confirming that the universe is expanding. Now the Lowell Observatory hopes to discover even more with a new, $53 million telescope built just north of Payson.
The observatory teamed up with Discovery Channel to fund and build the telescope, the fifth-largest in the continental U.S.
The Discovery Channel will air a one-hour special, “Scanning the Skies: The Discovery Channel Telescope,” documenting construction of the telescope from conception to the unveiling of first light images.
The special premiers Sunday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m.
The Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) is one of the most technically sophisticated, ground-based telescopes of its size, organizers say.
Measuring 78 feet tall and weighing more than six tons, the telescope resides in some of the clearest sky around in the Coconino National Forest near Happy Jack, at an elevation of 7,760 feet.
The telescope is designed to study a range of topics. Researchers hope to uncover what lies beyond Neptune, the Milky Way, new, small galaxies and other celestial objects.
Astronomers from several universities, including Boston University, the University of Maryland and the University of Toledo, will take turns using the scope for research.
The telescope represents a new dawn for science education, organizers say.
“Scanning the Skies: The Discovery Channel Telescope” focuses on the planning and construction of the telescope. The documentary will feature interviews with the director of Lowell Observatory and other Lowell astronomers.
In addition to the premiere of the one-hour special, Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications, will bring videos, images and research from the DCT to classrooms around the globe. Through its partnerships with school districts, Discovery Education will provide teachers with lesson plans and resources to help students learn about astronomy and science.
For updates on the documentary, go to www. discovery.com.