DISCOVERY CHANNEL TELESCOPE SEES ‘FIRST LIGHT’
Discovery Communications and Lowell Observatory today are proud to officially usher in the beginning of the Discovery Channel Telescope era with “The First Light Gala,” on Saturday, July 21. The event celebrates the successful fruition of a two-decades-long visionary effort by the private, non-profit Lowell Observatory to construct a world-class, state-of-the-art research instrument for the 21st century.
“The Discovery Channel Telescope is emblematic of our mission to ignite curiosity and stir the imagination of audiences here and around the globe,” said John Hendricks, Founder and Chairman of Discovery Communications. “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.”
The celebration also honors a decade-long commitment from Discovery Communications founder and major Lowell Observatory contributor John Hendricks, and his wife, Maureen, whose generous support was indispensable in constructing the $53 million, 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope, which was completed without any state or federal funding. The collaboration between Lowell Observatory and Discovery Communications will be featured on-air in a one-hour special on Discovery Channel in early September 2012, which will document the planning and construction of the telescope.
“The First Light Gala is a historic event in the annals of Lowell Observatory,” says Dr. Jeffrey Hall, director 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. We are honored to be part of it and grateful to all who have helped make it a reality.”
Along with remarks from dignitaries such as Dr. Hall, Mr. Hendricks, Lowell Observatory sole trustee William Lowell Putnam III, and a keynote speech from former astronaut and first human to set foot on the Moon, Mr. Neil Armstrong, the First Light Gala is featuring “first light” images taken in May with the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT).
The images, along with special video presentations by the Observatory, Discovery, and Mr. Armstrong, will be presented to approximately 700 attendees, including representatives from the DCT’s “first light” institutional partners Boston University (which signed an in-perpetuity agreement with a contribution approaching that of Discovery), the University of Maryland, and the University of Toledo. Other dignitaries making remarks include Lowell Observatory director emeritus Dr. Robert Millis and major project contributor Mr. John Giovale. The master of ceremonies is Mr. Charles Wendt, the Observatory’s deputy director for advancement.
Lowell Observatory is pleased to welcome dignitaries from state and local government, project contractors and event sponsors, current and former Observatory employees and volunteers, Friends of Lowell, and all those who have donated to the construction and acquisition of all the elements needed for this unique project. Testing and commissioning of the Discovery Channel Telescope, which is located 45 miles southeast of Flagstaff near Happy Jack, AZ, will continue for at least another 18 months, as is typical with four-meter class telescopes. Structured scientific research is expected to begin in 2013 or 2014.