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Don’t wait until 2035 for another view like this: see Mars at its biggest and brightest.

Mars reached opposition on October 13, 2020, when it was biggest and brightest in our skies. It will not be this big and bright again for 15 years. To celebrate the opposition, we invite you to learn more about the red planet that famously captured the interest of our founder.  Join us online for Interactive Stargazing at the Giovale Open Deck Observatory for live views of Mars and other celestial objects. Interactive Stargazing will also include presentations about the history of Mars, how to view, plus more–all from the comfort of your own home. Or, come up to Mars Hill for one of our exclusive Premium Access experiences (reservations required). You can even reserve the very telescope used by Percival Lowell to study Mars at opposition, the historic 24-inch Clark Refractor.

Virtual Viewing

Tuesday, October 6 | 8pm-9:15pm AZ/PT

Join Lowell Observatory educators at the Giovale Open Deck Observatory for the very first week of the Mars opposition! During this guided, interactive, virtual viewing session, we’ll showcase some planned celestial objects through our 14″ PlaneWave CDK telescope, including Mars at its biggest and brightest. Then, we’ll let you choose which objects to see next via YouTube’s chat function. It’s stargazing, reimagined.

After the stargazing session, Researcher Bill Sheehan will cover the fascinating history of Mars observation and astrophotographer Klaus Brasch will discuss the best ways to view Mars for this opposition. We’ll end the evening with a short presentation from one of our fabulous educators about what an opposition is and what makes this one special.

*Note: Programming is weather dependent and can be canceled due to inclement weather.

Tuesday, October 13 | 8pm-9:15pm AZ/PT

Join Lowell Observatory educators at the Giovale Open Deck Observatory for Week 2 of the Mars opposition. During this guided, interactive, virtual viewing session, we’ll showcase some planned celestial objects through our 14″ PlaneWave CDK telescope, including Mars at its biggest and brightest. Then, we’ll let you choose which objects to see next via YouTube’s chat function. It’s stargazing, reimagined.

At 8:30pm, researcher Dr. Bill Sheehan and Lowell historian Kevin Schindler will take over to discuss the rich history of Mars observation on Mars Hill. They will discuss our founder Percival Lowell’s impassioned search for life on the red planet, how this year’s opposition mirrors the one that Lowell himself observed in the 1800’s, and much more.

*Note: Programming is weather dependent and can be canceled due to inclement weather.

Tuesday, October 20 | 8pm-9:15pm AZ/PT

Join Lowell Observatory educators at the Giovale Open Deck Observatory for Week 3 of the Mars opposition. During this guided, interactive, virtual viewing session, we’ll showcase some planned celestial objects through our 14″ PlaneWave CDK telescope, including Mars at its biggest and brightest. Then, we’ll let you choose which objects to see next via YouTube’s chat function. It’s stargazing, reimagined.

At 8:30 pm, researcher Bill Sheehan and Lowell historian Kevin Schindler will pick up where they left off last week as they dive deeper into the history of Mars observation.

*Note: Programming is weather dependent and can be canceled due to inclement weather.

Tuesday, October 27 | 8pm-9:15pm AZ/PT

Join Lowell Observatory educators on at the Giovale Open Deck Observatory for the 4th and final week of the Mars opposition. During this guided, interactive, virtual viewing session, we’ll showcase some planned celestial objects through our 14″ PlaneWave CDK telescope, including Mars at its biggest and brightest. Then, we’ll let you choose which objects to see next via YouTube’s chat function. It’s stargazing, reimagined.

After the stargazing session, researcher Bill Sheehan will discuss the vital research done by the late Nadine Barlow, a physics and astronomy professor at NAU who dedicated her life to studying martian impact craters. Guest Dr. Jennifer Hanley will discuss her work with Mars. Also a bit about the future of Mars research and exploration.

*Note: Programming is weather dependent and can be canceled due to inclement weather.

Telescope Viewing

Experience no-wait stargazing with a Premium Access experience—only at Lowell Observatory.
There are three ways to view Mars in-person at Lowell Observatory. These private, personalized expeditions across the stars are so much more than a stargazing session—they’re a guided journey through the cosmos that allows you to choose your own destinations.

Using our advanced telescopes, specially trained educators will show you the best of what the night sky has to offer, including Mars at opposition. Outside, your educator will use a high-powered laser to point out prominent stars and constellations while sharing epic tales of how the stars first formed.*

Reservations are required for up to 10 cohabitating or cotraveling guests. For a limited time, Members receive a 10% discount on Premium Access experiences.

Experience the wonders of the universe through one of the world’s most storied telescopes—the 24-inch Clark Refractor at Lowell Observatory.

View the cosmos through the same telescope that observatory founder Percival Lowell used to study Mars more than a century ago. In terms of magnification, the 24-inch Clark Refractor is the most powerful on Mars Hill, which makes it ideal for viewing Mars.

75 minutes | Fri, Sat, Sun (2 sessions per night) | $525 (flat rate)

Experience the universe up-close with our state-of-the-art 24-inch Dyer Telescope.

View the cosmos through Lowell Observatory’s newest telescope. Because of the sophistication and speed of the 24-inch Dyer Telescope, our specially trained educators can offer you an impressive number and variety of celestial objects for viewing and will customize the experience to your interests.

75 minutes | Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat (2 sessions per night) | $525 (flat rate)

Experience stargazing, reimagined—only at the Giovale Open Deck Observatory.

View the cosmos through six advanced telescopes. Taking place entirely outdoors to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19, this VIP experience allows you to choose which celestial bodies to observe and includes a laser-guided voyage across the night sky.

90 minutes | Every night except Tuesdays (2 sessions per night)
$725 (flat rate)

*Barring any operational issues and weather permitting.

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Mars & Lowell History

Percival Lowell at the historic 24-inch Clark Refractor that he used to study Mars.

A color map of Mars from 1905 showing what Lowell believed to be canals.

Mars has been a major topic of research at Lowell since the observatory’s founding in 1894. Percival Lowell established this trend by regularly observing and writing about the red planet. While he dutifully spent hours peering at the planet through the Clark Telescope and sketching details into a logbook, he is most remembered for his controversial theories about intelligent life.

In some ways, Lowell can be compared to nineteenth century naturalist T.H. Huxley, who did not propose the theory of evolution but became one of its strongest and most vocal supporters. Likewise, Percival Lowell was not the first to see the supposed canals on Mars or even the first to suggest their existence as evidence of intelligent life there, but he became the loudest and strongest supporter of these ideas.

Lowell built a consciousness about life on Mars that delightfully impacted literature, inspiring writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells to craft popular books themed around Martian life.

Today we know the canals don’t exist and in fact no definitive proof of any life on Mars—let alone intelligent forms—has yet been detected. Yet Lowell’s compelling ideas remain important for historical reasons. His Martian research also set the stage for future studies at the observatory.

One of Lowell’s contemporaries, E.C. Slipher, developed into a leading Martian expert. He used the observatory’s Clark Telescope for most of his research, but also traveled to an observatory in South Africa for three Mars observing expeditions.

Slipher continued studying Mars up until his death in 1964, but by this time other astronomers at the observatory were carrying out Mars research. Leonard Martin, for instance, worked on several Mars projects during his three decades at Lowell. He observed Mars as part of the International Planetary Patrol—a global network of observatories photographing many of the planets—and later was involved in projects using images captured with the Viking spacecraft and Hubble Space Telescope.

– Excerpt from Images of America: Lowell Observatory by Lowell Historian Kevin Schindler

Today, Dr. Jennifer Hanley continues the long tradition, studying the stability of water on Mars as indicated by chlorine salts. All in all, any conversation dealing with the history of Martian studies inevitably includes some mention of research carried out at Lowell Observatory.

Shop Mars

Commemorate this extra special Mars opposition with some truly Mars-nificent merch from our Starry Skies shop! Browse our selection of Mars-themed books, toys, games, and much more. There’s a geek-chic gift for every astronomy lover in your life!

Click on an image to be taken to the Starry Skies Shop.

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