Frequently Asked Visiting Questions
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What to Expect During Your Visit
Weather at Lowell Observatory
It may surprise you to hear that Flagstaff receives an average of 100.6 inches of snow per year, making it the 8th snowiest city in the U.S.*!
Despite Arizona’s reputation for being hot, sunny, and dry year-round, we experience all 4 seasons and the weather that comes along with them.
That being said, snow, rain, and clouds can sometimes prevent us from opening the telescopes as usual. But never fear: in the event of inclement weather, we offer plenty of indoor talks, tours, and exhibits for you to enjoy during your visit!
*with an official weather station.
What to Bring & Wear
The weather in Flagstaff can change on a dime, so be sure to dress in layers during the colder months. That way, you can add a layer if you get cold, or remove one if you start feeling too warm. Even during the summer, Flagstaff is usually at least 30 degrees cooler than Phoenix, and the temperature drops even lower at night. It also tends to get pretty windy up on Mars Hill, which can make the temperature feel even colder. Be sure to bring a light jacket, even if it’s warm during the day.
Our campus gets very dark at night—and we like it that way! To keep the telescopes’ view clear of light interference, we ask that you do not take flash photography while on campus, avoid using cell phones with bright screens*, and refrain from using flashlights that emit white light. Special red flashlights will be available to check out at the front desk. If you have your own red flashlight, feel free to bring it along!
*if you’d like to be able to use your cellphone during your visit, check out this handy guide on how to make the colors settings on your screen telescope-friendly!
Phase 2A of Reopening
Currently, only Premium Access ticketing is available. All ticket reservations for Premium Access must be made online, but please do not hesitate to give us a call or send us an email if you have any questions!
In the event of uncooperative weather, the supervisor on duty for the night of your visit will contact you a few hours ahead of your reservation time. They will ask you if you’d like to reschedule, or cancel your visit completely for a full refund.
Rules to Follow
As a scientific institution, we take the health of our guests very seriously and follow the CDC’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. Currently, we offer a number of COVID-conscious, on-campus guided stargazing experiences for limited groups.
Lowell Observatory is located at an elevation of 7200 feet, so you will want to pace yourself if you’re not accustomed to the high elevation. Most of our buildings are wheelchair accessible, with the exception of the Pluto Discovery Telescope.
More Frequently Asked Questions
Currently, we are open by appointment only. The time slots available for booking will depend on the admission option you choose, such as a daytime tour or an evening telescope viewing session.
The purchase of any daytime tour or evening telescope viewing session grants you access to the outdoor exhibits on campus and our Starry Skies Shop.
Yes! General admission is good for the whole day, even if you leave the observatory and come back later.
In addition to the tour or telescope viewing session you booked, you will be able to check out our outdoor exhibits and browse our selection of unique gifts in our Starry Skies Shop.
That depends on the group! Some can stay from open to close to experience everything the observatory has to offer, others will stop by for an hour or so to take a tour or see the grounds. According to our Google profile, the average stay time is about 2 hours.
Reservations are required from now until when we transition into the 3rd and final phase of our phased reopening plan (link to reopening plan), when general admission tickets will once again be available for purchase at the door.
We typically open the telescopes around sunset, which varies depending on the time of year. It can be as early as 4:30pm in the winter, or as late as 8pm in the summer.
If our telescopes aren’t open due to inclement weather or operational issues, guests are still welcome to tour the telescope facilities and learn their history through our educators. We also offer educational talks and a variety of walk-through exhibits, like the Universe Walk and the Putnam Collection Center.
Clouds are the most common reason for telescopes not to be operating. If the cloud coverage isn’t full, our educators will try their best to spy visible objects through gaps in the clouds.
The Pluto Discovery Telescope is an astrograph, a special kind of telescope that has no eyepiece, but instead a mechanism for taking pictures. The telescope is no longer in operation, but guests can visit the facility to view the telescope and learn about the discovery of Pluto.
Nope! In terms of astronomy, an observatory is a facility that houses equipment used to study the cosmos, like telescopes. A planetarium, on the other hand, is a theatre in which star images are projected onto a screen. Lowell Observatory is an independent, non-profit research institution. Some parts of our campus are closed to the public, but we have several telescopes and exhibits that visitors can check out!
Currently, we have snacks and pay-and-take style meals available for purchase in our Starry Skies Shop. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and drink with them on campus as well. We will have an on-campus cafe in our brand new Astronomy Discovery Center, set to open in 2023!
We have a main visitor parking lot, as well as an overflow lot. It can accommodate RVs, but parking is first-come-first-served and may not be able to accommodate larger vehicles on very busy nights.
We are located in Flagstaff, Arizona, just one mile west of the historic downtown area. The observatory sits atop Mars Hill, a mesa that rises several hundred feet above town.
Flash photography is permitted during the day, but we ask that guests avoid the use of any type of white light (including camera flash, flashlights, and phone screens) at night to avoid causing glares in the telescopes and impairing other visitors’ night vision.
Yes! Since we currently have few dining options on campus, you are more than welcome to bring your own food and beverages with you on campus. We have tables available inside the Steele Visitor Center and picnic tables located outside in the Pickard Grove. Food is not permitted to be eaten indoors.