A telescope built in Arizona has finally taken its first images, nearly 20 years after efforts to construct it began. The installation is located near the city of Happy Jack, and was built entirely from private funds.
The purpose of the new installation is to engage the public in astronomy, and increase its interest in the Universe and its way. Additionally, the telescope can also be used for conducting scientific research.
Known as the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT), the instrument boasts a 4.3-meter (14-foot) main mirror, which is capable of seeing the Cosmos at sufficiently high levels of resolution, Space
Funds for the construction effort were provided by the Lowell Observatory and Discovery Communications, the parent company that owns the Discovery Channel. The inauguration of the new telescope took place at the Lowell Observatory, in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Saturday, July 21.
Famous NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong – the first person to set foot on the Moon in 1969 – attended the ceremony and delivered the keynote address. The telescope took a total of $53 million to complete.
According to official statistics, the DCT is the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States, though it is dwarfed by instruments in Hawaii and Chile. It is able to survey the night sky in optical and near-infrared wavelengths.
It achieved first light back in May, when its 16-million-pixel camera snapped a series of images of the renowned Whirlpool Galaxy, Sombrero Galaxy and M109 barred spiral galaxy. A documentary covering the telescope's construction and commissioning will air on Discover Channel this September.
“The First Light Gala is a historic event in the annals of Lowell Observatory. It marks completion of our spectacular new research facility, initiation of superb projects that will bring our research to millions through our partnership with Discovery Communications,” Jeffrey Hall said.
“We are honored to be part of it and grateful to all who have helped make it a reality,” the director of the Lowell Observatory added in a statement. “The Discovery Channel Telescope is emblematic of our mission to ignite curiosity and stir the imagination of audiences here and around the globe,” John Hendricks adds.
He is the founder and chairman of Discovery Communications. He was one of the most important donors to the project, alongside his wife Maureen. “The telescope represents 'discovery' in both word and deed and we are thrilled to see the amazing places it will take us with breathtaking images and vital new research,” he says.