Mars and Pluto Family Adventure
*Masks will be required for the duration of the program, even outdoors. Please note that this experience involves climbing steep hills and stairs at an altitude of 7,250 feet. If you believe you cannot complete this strenuous activity without removing your face mask, we invite you to visit Lowell Observatory when masks are no longer required.
**Barring any operational issues and weather permitting.
Future planetary scientists, take note! The daytime Mars and Pluto Family Adventure lasts 90 minutes and highlights the planets that were famously studied at Lowell Observatory. This guided tour is led by an observatory educator and includes spectroscopy and liquid nitrogen science experiments as well as stops at the 32-foot-long Clark Refractor that Percival Lowell used to study Mars, the Pluto Discovery Telescope that Clyde Tombaugh used to discover Pluto, and the new Giovale Open Deck Observatory where you’ll safely observe the Sun, weather permitting.**
After checking in at the Steele Visitor Center, your adventure begins at a telescope that’s the size of a T. rex: the 124-year-old, 32-foot-long Clark Refractor. This 24” diameter telescope was used by Percival Lowell to study Mars and other planets, by Vesto Slipher to find the first evidence that our universe is expanding, and by scientists in the 1960’s to create detailed maps of the Moon in preparation for the Apollo Moon landings. Doors and dome shutters are kept open at the Clark Dome in fair weather to facilitate fresh airflow while guests are inside.
Next, the tour takes you to 1930, when amateur astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered the dwarf planet Pluto, right here at Lowell Observatory. You’ll pass by the building that housed Tombaugh’s office and living quarters as you head up the Pluto Walk toward the Pluto Dome, which houses the 13” Lawrence Lowell Astrograph, which was used to image Pluto. Because of the small size of the Pluto Dome, guests will tour the interior in groups of five. Outside, your educator will use liquid nitrogen to explore what conditions are like on Pluto.
The final stop of your Mars and Pluto Family Adventure is the Giovale Open Deck Observatory plaza, which just opened in October 2019. Here, you’ll get to safely search the sun for any sunspots or prominences with a hydrogen-alpha solar telescope. Telescope eyepieces will be sanitized between each guest and masks are required at all times, even during the outside portions of this tour. In the event of cloudy weather, your educator will give a presentation about the sun under an outdoor tent.
At the conclusion of your Mars and Pluto Family Adventure, your educator will escort you back to the Steele Visitor Center.
To avoid overcrowding, please do not arrive more than 15 minutes in advance of your scheduled start time.