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Lowell Observatory Announces New Public Observing Plaza


Lowell Observatory is now implementing the first phase of a long-range expansion plan with construction of the Giovale Open Deck Observatory (GODO). This new public observing plaza, to be located near the Pluto discovery telescope at Lowell, is set to open in late 2018 and will help accommodate the Observatory’s ever-increasing crowd sizes.

The facility is named in honor of longtime Lowell supporters/advisors John and Ginger Giovale, who made a lead gift for the project. John Giovale said, “One of the things that prompted us to support this project is the vision being developed there at Lowell Observatory for major revamping of the campus and the visitors experience. We saw this telescope plaza as a way in which momentum may be created towards that bigger objective, that bigger vision. And we were excited about that.”

GODO will consist of a 5,000-square-foot, elevated plaza along with a roll-off-roof building that will house a suite of telescopes. These will be used for direct observing through eyepieces, as well as for projection of images and spectra onto monitors. Director Jeff Hall said, “Our strategic plan demands that our guests have an experience here they can’t get anywhere else, so we’re going to make sure this is a premier facility from stem to stern.”

An early supporter of the new facility was Lowell Observatory Advisory Board member Michael Beckage, who with his wife Bridget kicked off fundraising for the facility with a gift. Fellow board member Pam Ross and her husband Charlie followed that up with their own gift, inspiring more support. With the Giovale’s gift, the Observatory has the necessary funding to begin construction of the facility.

Giovale said, “We were excited that this project started with the Advisory Board meeting, in which we had a number of our Advisory Board members step forward and spontaneously make a pledge for this facility. That got us thinking about pledging to the project. And of course there were also the relentless efforts by (Deputy Director for Development) Lisa Actor, (Director) Jeff Hall, and (Sole Trustee) Lowell Putnam, as well as other faculty and staff. Their enthusiasm and excitement was so important to us. They not only created this vision, but are actively working to make it happen.”

While much of the construction costs are now covered, Lowell’s development staff, led by Actor, is seeking an additional $270,000 for the telescopes and related equipment that will be housed in the structure. Lowell staff and supporters believe this is well within reach. Giovale said, “Lisa has been incredibly important in helping us all realize that we have this gem that we can raise money for. It is out there, it is possible, and it is probable that we can make this vision happen.”

Telescope Wish List for GODO

  • 32-inch, f/3.0 StarStructure Horizon Series Reflector, with optics by Lockwood Custom Optics. This will be the largest telescope on Mars Hill and ideal for deep-sky objects such as galaxies, planetary nebula, globular clusters, and emission nebula.
  • 8-inch, f/12 Victorian Style Refracting Telescope by MoonRaker Telescopes, with optics by APM Germany and mount by Astro-Physics. To ensure clearance of this long refractor with the roll-off building, an adjustable-height pier will be utilized. This will be the primary telescope used for viewing the Moon, planets, double stars, and star clusters.
  • 17-inch PlaneWave CDK Telescope, with mount by Astro-Physics. This will be outfitted with a Shelyak spectrometer that has already been donated to Lowell Observatory. This will allow us to display stellar spectra on a monitor. With the optional eyepiece kit, the telescope may also be used visually.
  • 14-inch PlaneWave CDK Telescope, with mount by Astro-Physics. It will be fitted with a MallinCam video camera—already donated to Lowell. With this system, we will show live, imaged objects on a monitor. With the optional eyepiece kit, the telescope could be used visually.
  • 16-inch Meade Ritchey-Chrétien Telescope, with mount by Astro-Physics. This telescope has already been donated to Lowell but we may look to upgrade certain components. It will be ideal for a variety of visual observations.

Media Contact
Molly Baker, Lowell Observatory
(928) 233-3216