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On a forested mesa west of Flagstaff sits Lowell Observatory, the birthplace of astronomy in the Southwest. It was here that Percival Lowell built a telescope in 1896 (pictured at bottom of page). Another one was added in 1928 (pictured below). Lowell was a wealthy eccentric who could afford to build his own observatory, and staff it with research astronomers.

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Photo: Mark Duggan

The Pluto Discovery Telescope was built in 1928 to look for "Planet X," later known as Pluto.

One of those astronomers was A.E. Douglass, who eventually moved to Tucson and started the astronomy department and Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona. Over the next 60 years, this would lead to multiple observatories being built on southern Arizona mountaintops, and would thrust the UA into the position of being the preeminent school for astronomy.

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Photo: Mark Duggan

The Steward Observatory Mirror Lab now makes primary mirrors for some of the world's largest telescopes.

Dr. Wes Lockwood of the Lowell Observatory and Dr. Thomas Fleming of the Steward Observatory are our guides for a trip through the pages of Arizona astronomy history.

Visit the Collecting Light website for more stories, interviews, resources and images.

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Photo: Mark Duggan

The Alvan Clark refracting telescope was installed at Lowell Observatory in 1896. It is still used today for public viewing programs.