Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility PRESS RELEASE: LOWELL OBSERVATORY BREAKS GROUND ON NEW DISCOVERY CENTER - Lowell Observatory


Kemper and Ethel Marley Astronomy Discovery Center Groundbreaking at Lowell Observatory

Left to right: Jim McCarthy, Michael Beckage, Jeronimo Vasquez, Wendy Rogers, Jeff Hall, Bill Ahearn, Susan Ahearn, Samantha Gorney, John Giovale, Ginger Giovale, Jamie Coffaro, Nancy Ball, Jeff Zemer, Austin Aslan

June 29, 2021

Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Astronomy Discovery Center Set to Open in 2024

Flagstaff, AZ. – Lowell Observatory’s vision for its education program is bold and simple: to be the premier public astronomy destination in the world. The observatory took a critical step toward achieving that goal on Saturday by breaking ground on a new 40,000-square-foot, $37.5-million discovery center. The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Astronomy Discovery Center (ADC) will be six times the size of Lowell’s current visitor facility and will accommodate greatly increased annual attendance to Lowell’s outreach programs.

A few raindrops didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the speakers or onlookers. The 60-minute ceremony included remarks by Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy, Coconino County Supervisor Jeronimo Vasquez, and Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers, followed by a ceremonial sod-turning.

The Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation is the lead sponsor of the ADC, and Trustee Nancy Ball spoke about how her colleagues’ love of astronomy drove the organization’s support of the project. She added, “This project will inspire and educate people of all ages, for generations to come, on the beauty and wonder of astronomy.”

Lowell Observatory Sole Trustee W. Lowell Putnam echoed this passion for the universe and the inspiration it generates. He said, “Percival Lowell spoke of the importance of ‘co-discovery’, that scientists should communicate what they find in ways that excite and engage others. The new ADC will allow us to share our research and understanding of the universe with visitors in a unique and inspiring way.”

Some of the key features of the ADC:

    • The Universe Theater is an immersive, interactive experience where live presenters will lead guests on a journey through space against the backdrop of a two-story, 165-degree main screen and 30-foot overhead screen.
    • The Dark Sky Planetarium is located on top of the three-floor ADC and will use Flagstaff’s famously dark skies as a natural dome.
    • The Curiosity Zone is an exhibit hall designed specifically for children to encourage their natural curiosity about science and math with hands-on experiments such as a rocket-launching station.
    • The Diverse Universe Exhibit is designed to inspire children to see themselves as future scientists by showing the human side of scientists from around the world – their unique life stories, challenges they have overcome, and more. Just as no two planets, stars or galaxies are alike, neither are the people who study them.

W. L. Gore & Associates is the sponsor of the Diverse Universe Wall. “Sponsorship of the Diverse Universe Wall dovetails nicely with Gore’s STEM community focus in Flagstaff, as well as our focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. We believe diverse views, ideas and people help strengthen our Enterprise and our ability to innovate and improve lives across the globe,” says Jana Kettering, Gore Northern Arizona Community Relations Leader.

Mayor Deasy echoed these sentiments. “With our sacred mountain and dark skies, (the ADC will) bring people from around the globe to enjoy what Flagstaff has to offer,” he said.

About the ADC

The ADC represents the second phase of Lowell Observatory’s expansion of its visitor experience, following the opening of the Giovale Open Deck Observatory two years ago. For more information about the ADC, including floor plans, exhibit descriptions, and more, see


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About Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) research institution, founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell atop Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. The observatory has been the site of many important discoveries, including the first detection of large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1912-1914 and Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto in 1930. Today, the observatory’s 17 astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. Lowell Observatory currently operates multiple research instruments at its Anderson Mesa station, east of Flagstaff, and the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope near Happy Jack, Arizona. The observatory also welcomes more than 100,000 guests per year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a variety of educational experiences, including historical tours, science presentations, and telescope viewing.