Astronomy

Which Lowell Observatory telescope is this? (used to draw Moon maps for the Apollo program)

Which Lowell Observatory telescope is this? (used to draw Moon maps for the Apollo program)


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The Fox News article Arizona city played critical role in moon exploration history covers several interesting activities that took place in Arizona in preparation for the Apollo Moon landings.

It shows the telescope (shown below) and mentions that it was used to draw lunar maps.

Question: Is it possible to identify which telescope this is exactly? Is there some place where one can read more about it?

click images for full size viewing

above: Lowell Observatory telescope used by scientists who collaborated with artists to map out the moon for Apollo astronauts (Fox News)

below: Screenshot from July 9, 2019 Fox News video NASA lunar legacy in the Arizona desert


That's the historic 24-inch Alvan Clark refractor. It was installed in 1896 and restored in 2014-15. Besides the moon mapping project, Percival Lowell used it to observe Mars, and Vesto Slipher used it for some of the first measurements of galaxy redshifts. Its current mission is education; in mild weather the observatory lets visitors look through it.

Roger Vine's Scope Views has more photos and a detailed description.


I contacted Dr. Danielle Adams, Deputy Director for Marketing and Communications at the Lowell Observatory. She was kind enough to reply, and generously provided the following:

… this is the 24" Alvan Clark & Sons refractor, commissioned by observatory founder Percival Lowell in 1895 and completed in 1896. It was fully restored in 2015, a process that took 18 months, since we restored or replaced everything, down to the screw.

The Clark Refractor, as we typically call it, was first used to study Mars and other planets by Percival Lowell, but it also has a storied history in studying deep-space objects. In 1912-1914, VM Slipher used a spectrograph attached to the Clark Refractor to study the redshift of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, and in doing so he found the first evidence that the universe was expanding. (Edwin Hubble later used this data and his own research to refine this.)

In the 1960's ('61-'69), the Clark Refractor was used by the USAF's Aeronautical Chart and Information Center to develop highly-detailed maps of the moon, using a combination of photography and professional illustration at the telescope during exquisite moments of seeing. Today, the Clark Refractor is no longer used for research, which allows us to dedicate it fully to public observing for guests who visit the observatory. We also recently started after hours sessions for guests who want to spend more time with the Clark after the observatory has officially closed.

Lowell Observatory's Historian, Kevin Schindler, literally wrote the book(s) on the Clark Refractor. There's a link to his latest book (post-restoration) and a mini-documentary about the process here: https://lowell.edu/history/the-clark-refractor.

In response to my comment above. she continues:

Also, note that in response to the connected question about which wood was used to line observatory copulas, in the case of both the Clark Refractor and the Pluto Astropgraph at Lowell Observatory, local Ponderosa Pine is the sole that was used for the domes. Flagstaff is home to the largest contiguous grove of Ponderosa Pine in the world, a tree that grows tall and straight, making it perfect for building.


Lowell Observatory's Clark Telescope closes for renovation on January 1

Lowell Observatory's iconic Clark Telescope is about to undergo a much-needed facelift. After 117 years of constant use, the instrument will be closed for more than a year as engineers and technicians carefully remove telescope components and repair or replace poorly operating parts.

The Clark was built by the preeminent telescope makers of their time, the Alvan Clark & Sons firm of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. The instrument saw first light on July 23, 1896, and Percival Lowell initially used it to study Mars in support of his controversial theories about life on that planet. Significant research with the Clark included V. M. Slipher's revolutionary discovery of the first evidence of the expanding nature of the universe, the confirmation of Pluto's discovery in 1930 (made by Clyde Tombaugh with another telescope at Lowell Observatory), and creation of lunar maps in the 1960s in support of the Apollo program that sent astronauts to the Moon.

Lowell director Jeff Hall commented, "The Clark Telescope is a national treasure and is Lowell Observatory's first research telescope. Last year, we celebrated first light of our newest eye on the sky, the Discovery Channel Telescope, which will carry us through several more decades of astronomical discoveries, as the Clark did in the early days of Lowell. That makes it an appropriate time to look back and ensure that this telescope that started it all—a lovely old refractor in the wooden dome overlooking Flagstaff—is restored and maintained for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Mars Hill who will look through it in the future."

For the past three decades, the Clark Telescope has been a staple of the Observatory's outreach program. More than one million visitors have seen and/or looked through the Clark, including Flagstaff native Samantha Christensen, who first saw the telescope on trips to the observatory with her family. Now Lowell's Outreach Manager, she said, "The Clark is special to me because I looked through it as a kid. Those experiences helped interest me in science and I'm thrilled that because of this renovation, the Clark will continue to have that sort of impact on other people's lives."

The renovation project is supported in large part by major donations from the Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences and by the late Joseph N. Orr. A successful crowd-sourcing effort also raised significant support, and the Observatory is still accepting donations to complete the work.


Two Landmarks That Helped Americans Land on the Moon

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Barringer Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona. Photo: Courtesy Meteor Crater, Northern Arizona, USA

On your road trip to the Grand Canyon, stop by a Meteor Crater and Lowell Observatory which have played critical roles in NASA’s space program.

When President John F. Kennedy announced on May 25, 1961, that the U.S. would put men on the moon by the end of the 1960s, no one had a detailed map of the moon.

To make maps, NASA turned to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., which owned the Clark Telescope built in 1896. Working feverishly for 10 years, teams of scientists and airbrush artists used the telescope at the Flagstaff observatory to view the moon and hand-draw exquisitely detailed maps of its surface.

“Imagine going to a foreign country without a map,” says Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory’s historian. “These maps helped astronauts figure out where they were going to land.”

The Clark Telescope Dome under the night skies at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. Lowell Observatory via Flickr

But the astronauts also needed practice driving lunar roving vehicles in a crater-pocked landscape and picking up rocks in confining space suits.

Meteor Crater, 37 miles east of Flagstaff, gave every Apollo astronaut a preview of what they might see on the moon. The crater, formed about 50,000 years ago when a fiery asteroid crashed into the Earth, going 26,000 miles per hour.

Today, you can visit Meteor Crater and Lowell Observatory. At Lowell, view the moon’s craters and Saturn’s rings through the 32-foot-long Clark Telescope. And peer through the legendary Pluto Telescope, which helped 24-year-old observatory assistant Clyde Tombaugh discover Pluto in 1930. The interactive Space Guard Academy exhibit also is popular, as is Junior Astronomer, a program that allows kids to fill out a packet on-site and receive a patch.

“Of all the planets, only Pluto was discovered in this country, so it’s a neat piece not only of scientific history but American history,” Schindler says.


Photographic Basis

  • In rendering the lunar surface, the ACIC photographers used all available data, including photos from many sources, apparently primarily from the University of Manchester station they sponsored at Pic du Midi and from their own motion picture films taken at Lowell.
  • Other observatories contributing new photos to the LAC effort included the private Stony Ridge Observatory in California (photography done under contract through Lockheed Aircraft), the Kwasan Observatory in Kyoto, Japan, and the Kottomia Station of the Helwan Observatory in Egypt (photography, as at Pic du Midi, done under contract to the University of Manchester).
  • The following are prints of sequential "good" and "bad" frames from the motion picture films of Gould obtained at by the ACIC at Lowell, as shown in Kopal and Carder, 1974, which (after visual interpretation and comparison with other resources) presumably contributed to the rendering in LAC 94. For comparison, the same region is shown as later photographed by the LPL's 61-inch reflector and printed as Plate F15 in the Consolidated Lunar Atlas.
    • <|

    | | |- | | Comparison of ACIC Lowell imagery (from Kopal and Carder) with later photo by LPL |>


    "Planet X" and the Discovery of Pluto

    Mars was not the only object that drew Lowell's attention. He also observed Venus, believing that he could spot some surface markings. (It was later demonstrated that no one can see the surface of Venus from Earth due to the heavy cloud cover that blankets the planet.) He also inspired the search for a world that he believed was orbiting beyond the orbit of Neptune. He called this world "Planet X."

    Lowell Observatory continued to grow, fueled by Lowell's wealth. The observatory installed a 42-inch telescope equipped with a camera so that astronomers could photograph the sky in search of Planet X. Lowell hired Clyde Tombaugh to participate in the search. In 1915, Lowell published a book about the search: Memoir of a Trans-Neptunian Planet.

    In 1930, after Lowell's death, Tombaugh succeeded when he discovered Pluto. That discovery took the world by storm as the most distant planet ever discovered.


    Help restore the Lowell Observatory Clark telescope

    The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff needs funds to restore the Clark 24″ telescope. They are trying to raise $250,000. Tucsonans can help by attending a Science Café at the SkyBar in Tucson.

    STARS and BARS – EYE ON THE NIGHTSKY – Restore the Clark SCIENCE CAFÉ.

    Join the Arizona Experience at Sky Bar for a stellar evening in an astronomy themed science café. Lowell Observatory Outreach Manager Kevin Schindler will give a brief overview of the first observatory in the southwest and the plans to restore its 117-year old Clark Telescope– the telescope that discovered Pluto and recorded the first observations of the expansion of the universe. Today the Clark delights millions of public viewers. Find out what’s next for this historic treasure with the Restore the Clark campaign. Then, discover stargazing opportunities closer to home from the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and the GLOBE at Night global starcount.

    What: Lowell Observatory and Arizona Astronomy Science Café
    Where: SkyBar (536 N. 4th Avenue, Tucson)
    When: April 25, 6:45 pm

    On-street and lot parking is available.

    Speakers:
    Kevin Schindler: Outreach Manager, Lowell Observatory
    Keith Schlottman: Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association
    Connie Walker: GLOBE at Night Campaign, National Optical Astronomical Observatory

    The Clark telescope went into service at the Lowell Observatory in 1896. The Clark is one of the largest, most productive telescopes of its era and the first large telescope in the desert southwest of the United States. From 1961 to 1969, U.S. Air Force and Lowell cartographers made detailed maps of the moon based on observations made with the Clark Telescope. These maps were critical to the Apollo program, during which men landed on and studied the moon’s surface.

    Often called the “People’s Telescope,” more than a million visitors have seen through the world-famous 24″ Clark Telescope in the past 20 years alone and it’s time for it to get a complete overhaul.


    Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

    With one small step, space pride ignites anew at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The legendary site of the Apollo 11 liftoff offers views of the launch pads, encounters with astronauts, and the chance to join the Astronaut Training Experience, which mimics a mission to Mars with exercises that simulate launching, landing, and space walking. Inside the Lunar Theater, visitors can experience the dramatic moment the Eagle landed, accompanied by actual NASA footage and Mission Control recordings.


    Highlights from the International Planetary Patrol Program

    By: The Editors of Sky & Telescope November 6, 2015 0

    Get Articles like this sent to your inbox

    Astronomers dedicated significant time and resources to studying the planets as deep-space exploration ramped up in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    In the late 1960s, at the dawn of the space age but well before the digital age, astronomers at Lowell Observatory spearheaded a remarkably ambitious planetary observing program. Dubbed the International Planetary Patrol Program (IPPP), the project aimed to continuously monitor atmospheric and other changes on all major planets.

    Author Klaus Brasch details the effort in Sky & Telescope's January 2016 issue. He also provided some additional images and descriptions of the IPPP's activities and its key players.

    Astronomer William A. Baum served as director of the International Planetary Patrol Program.
    Lowell Observatory

    William A. Baum (1924–2012) directed the IPPP effort and ran the Planetary Research Center at Lowell Observatory from 1967 to 1990. Baum was a remarkably versatile investigator and a pioneer in many areas of astronomy. He helped obtain the first ultraviolet spectrum of the Sun and developed the first photoelectric photometers used at Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories.

    Baum worked with famed astronomers Edwin Hubble, Walter Baade, Alan Sandage, and Halton Arp on projects ranging from galactic redshifts and classification to main-sequence stars and refining distances to globular clusters. He also served on the imaging team for the NASA's Viking orbiters, part of a mission that culminated in twin landings on Mars, and on the team that designed and tested CCD cameras for the Hubble Space Telescope.

    Leonard J. Martin (1930–97) also was key to the IPPP effort. Trained as a cartographer, Martin joined Lowell Observatory in 1963 as a member of the Aeronautical Chart and Information Center, which prepared maps of the Moon for the Apollo missions. Later he joined the IPPP team, focusing on Martian atmospheric phenomena, including Viking orbiter imaging and later Hubble Space Telescope investigations of Mars.

    Charles "Chick" Capen, seen in 1962, specialized in color-filter photography.
    NASA / JPL / James W. Young

    Another cartographer, Jay L. Inge (1943–2014), generated maps of the Moon and Mars and later, with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Jovian moons and other solar-system bodies as part of the Voyager missions.

    Charles "Chick" Capen (1926–86), an IPPP participant from 1969 to 1983, made extensive use of color filters in planetary astronomy — a skill he shared with countless amateur astronomers through the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers. He published many articles and served as a member of NASA's Apollo, Mariner, and Viking missions. Among other honors, the International Astronomical Union named a 43-mile-wide crater on Mars after him.

    The pioneering program IPPP wound down in the 1970s, superseded by better imaging technology and interplanetary spacecraft. However, in addition to helping to maximize the scientific return from those later efforts, the IPPP's international cooperation became the model for many global scientific collaborations that would follow.

    All IPPP photography of the planets utilized this custom-designed, semi-automated, 35-mm film camera.
    Lowell Observatory Cartographers at the U.S. Geological Survey used imagery from the IPPP's ground-based telescopes and NASA's Mariner 9 orbiter to create this airbrush-rendered map of Mars. This hemisphere, centered on 0° longitude, shows the planet's appearance as seen in red light.
    NASA / JPL / USGS A sequence of images from IPPP stations around the world shows Venus in ultraviolet light. The planet's opaque upper atmosphere rotates in a retrograde sense every 4 days.
    Lowell Observatory


    Moon has liquid core says NASA

    The Apollo moon missions planted seismometers on the Moon beginning in 1969 and collected data until 1977. Apparently those data were not fully analyzed until recently.

    Modern, “State-of-the-art seismological techniques applied to Apollo-era data suggest our moon has a core similar to Earth’s.”

    As a result of that analysis, NASA says:

    the moon possesses a solid, iron-rich inner core with a radius of nearly 150 miles and a fluid, primarily liquid-iron outer core with a radius of roughly 205 miles. Where it differs from Earth is a partially molten boundary layer around the core estimated to have a radius of nearly 300 miles. The research indicates the core contains a small percentage of light elements such as sulfur, echoing new seismology research on Earth that suggests the presence of light elements — such as sulfur and oxygen — in a layer around our own core.

    The inner iron core and fluid outer core explains how the Moon developed and maintains its strong magnetic field. By analyzing how seismic signals from Moonquakes were passed through or reflected, the researchers were able to deduce the composition and location of layer interfaces within the Moon.

    A primary limitation to past lunar seismic studies was the wash of “noise” caused by overlapping signals bouncing repeatedly off structures in the moon’s fractionated crust. To mitigate this challenge, …the team employed an approach called seismogram stacking, or the digital partitioning of signals. Stacking improved the signal-to-noise ratio and enabled the researchers to more clearly track the path and behavior of each unique signal as it passed through the lunar interior.

    Future NASA missions will help gather more detailed data. The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, is a NASA Discovery-class mission set to launch this year. The mission consists of twin spacecraft that will enter tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure the gravity field in unprecedented detail. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about Earth’s moon and provide scientists a better understanding of the satellite from crust to core, revealing subsurface structures and, indirectly, its thermal history.


    7. Lowell Observatory

    The Clark Telescope Dome under the night skies at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. Lowell Observatory via Flickr

    Why go: This world-class observatory is where Pluto was discovered and the moon was mapped for early NASA astronauts. The Flagstaff area itself played a very important role as a training center for astronauts who participated in the Apollo program. Lowell Observatory was a map-making center to create maps of the moon for country’s mission to the moon. For 10 years scientists and illustrators used telescopes, including the 24-inch Clark refractor to view the moon and hand-draw detailed maps of its surface.

    Tip: If you go in the evening, you can get up-close views of planets, stars and the moon through Lowell’s telescopes.