Lowell Observatory Gets Meteorite Tracker, New Telescope Instruments

The night sky over the Flagstaff area. | Logan Brumm

Two recent upgrades will help scientists at Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory find meteorites and gaze into the cosmos.

As the Arizona Daily Sun reported recently, the observatory, which sits on Mars Hill above Flagstaff and is where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930, recently installed a full-horizon camera array to track meteors as they burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, then determine where any meteorite fragments may have fallen. A Lowell astronomer told the paper that the array, which consists of 16 relatively inexpensive security cameras, can accurately monitor the fireball effects of meteors in the atmosphere.

A second such array is planned for the observatory's Happy Jack facility to the southeast, where the new Discovery Channel Telescope is located. That telescope is getting upgrades as well, in the form of instruments to track gamma ray bursts, search for Earth-like planets and study young stars and planetary systems, according to another Daily Sun story.

Jeff Hall, Lowell's director, said the new instruments will help put the Discovery Channel Telescope, which became fully operational at the beginning of 2015, "on the map" and undertake more diverse projects.

In July 2015, Arizona Highways brought you the story of Lowell's historic Clark telescope, which underwent an extensive restoration and repair. That telescope is now up and running again for public viewing.

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