Lowell Observatory is a private, nonprofit, research institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell.
Since then, Lowell astronomers have conducted fundamental research that has led to the discovery of Pluto, the first evidence of the expanding Universe, and exhaustive measurements of the motions and basic properties of stars, among other achievements. Today, our staff of nearly 90 continues this tradition of discovery in all areas of astronomy and planetary science.
In 1994, in celebration of our centennial, we opened the Steele Visitor Center; today, well over a million people have passed through its doors. Some 80,000 visitors each year enjoy our tours, telescope viewing, exhibits, multimedia shows, and more. Percival Lowell inspired millions with his tireless advocacy of astronomy in the public eye, and we continue this commitment today.
In 2012, we will embark on our greatest adventure yet with the completion of the 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT). This new facility will vastly expand the breadth of research capabilities for our astronomers. Perhaps more exciting, Discovery Communications will bring our results to hundreds of millions worldwide through programming using the DCT’s breathtaking images.
Rapid technological advances have made the past few decades a golden age for astronomy. The DCT will usher in Lowell’s golden age, and you can be part of it by joining the Friends of Lowell. Join and share the marvels of the cosmos with us.
My family visited the observatory on a chilly winter day. We got there just in time for the Pluto tour and I'm so glad we did. Jim, out tour guide, told the tale of the discovery of Pluto as he led us up the path that led to the telescope where the discovery was made. His story telling was animated and informative. Most of the visitors were held captive by his information the entire hour. The exception were my boys (ages 7, 5, & 3) who were more interested in the small patches of snow under the pine trees. There were other kids their age, though, who did stay and listen the whole time. Our tour was completely outside, so if you go in the winter, dress warm.
Inside the visitors center is a small museum (mostly about Pluto), gift shop, and auditorium. The museum isn't very interactive so the little kids weren't too interested. We didn't have a lot of time to spend here so we only did the one tour but the grounds look like they would be fun to walk through. The paths have signs representing scales distances of planets in the solar system, universe, and galaxy.
This museum is part of the ASTC Passport program, so if you are a member of a different participating science museum, you may be able to get free admission here.
Lowell Observatory has the fame of discovering Pluto and is the largest private observatory in the United States. The observatory is fun and interesting but is definately better for older kids. They have talks and a large telescope for viewing. Be sure to dress warm if you are there in the winter, it was 19 degrees when we went there. 40 min to 1 hour would probably be enough time for a family.
The Lowell Observatory has a fascinating history and is only 1 mile west of downtown Flagstaff. On our drive up to the observatory first thing I noticed was the amazing scenery. We saw deer and the Ponderosa pines surrounding us were so pretty. Don't forget Flagstaff and the observatory are situated at a high elevation of 7200'.
The museum observatory has telescopes placed throughout the property along with other buildings to visit.
The main visitor center houses a new hands-on children's section that is very kid-friendly and colorful and include exciting scientific exhibits related to astronomy for the kids. I enjoyed it myself.
Several tours are available and included in the price. We took the Pluto tour which started at the Rotunda library. The Rotunda library is such a fantastic round building built in 1916 and inside is important, historic artifacts from the observatory. Learn more about the library here: http://www.lowell.edu/visit_rotunda.php
The observatory grounds are beautiful with gardens and Ponderosa pines. There are many places to walk and observe so the little kids can get their wiggles out.
The most interesting piece of history to me was Lowell and his telescope that was used to discover Pluto. As a visitor you get to enter the building where the telescope is housed and see it up close. It is big.
My kids and I got a kick out of the spacial walks. One is a galaxy walk and the other is a spacial solar system walk. The walks are a fantastic teaching tool to help show the distance between planets and solar systems. On top of that the walks take you through the forest. So pretty.
I kind of wish I lived nearby so I can visit frequently and especially take advantage of their new summer kids camp and night observations.
Note: There is NO food for sale on site so be sure to bring snacks and water for you and the kids, especially.