We came into Flagstaff and were so excited about our possibilities, especially the Lowell Observatory. We wanted a nice dinner and a movie. Sounded simple enough. We checked into our motel conveniently located directly across from the Northern Arizona University and right on the old Route 66. Sounds to me like no problem in locating something nice, very nice. We looked up the best rated Indian dinner in Flagstaff and came up with the Dehli Palace.
This sounded perfect, especially since Anet had just returned from a 3 week pilgrimage in India. The Dehli Palace came through with a fabulous meal and we have returned on several trips to or thru Flagstaff. Now it was hard to find the first time as the street number meant you had to pick the correct shopping center, and that took two tries and a lot of go back to go forward to the correct driveway.
Pluto Discovered at Lowell Observatory
Anyway we figured there would be a choice of movie houses in Flagstaff, but that was not to be. There was only one, with eleven screens, and none of the movies tickled our fancy. So we fished a bit and found that the Lowell Observatory was only 3 miles away. Incredible we thought to find an observatory in downtown Flagstaff.
The Lowell Observatory is just up the hill a bit on the Northern Arizona University campus and was open till ten on this night. Additionally there were lectures on Pluto, this year marking the 95th anniversary of its discovery. The night we were there the Pluto Dome was open for tours. It seem that Pluto’s presence was theorized for some time, but finally spotted by a hard working man right here at the Lowell Observatory. Wow! We got to see the actual telescope and observatory the he used for the discovery. needless to say the staff at the Lowell still think Pluto is a planet and I wholeheartedly agree.
Now the discovery of Pluto was done not by looking at the stars, but by taking photographs and comparing subsequent photos to see how things moved. The stars would cycle in a known pattern, however a planet, like Pluto, would move differently. We go to see copies of the pictures that verified the existence of Pluto, then called Planet X. February 18, 1930 was the day of discovery. Venetia Burney was the 11 year old girl who suggested the name Pluto. Pluto referenced the name of the Roman God of the underworld who could make himself invisible. Additionally Pluto started with the initials P L that were the initials of Percival Lowell who had predicted the existence of Planet X. And so the name was adopted.
Incredible Scientific Talks at Lowell Observatory
The lecture we heard was by an astrophysicist who was so excited, and I believe highly caffeinated. She spoke at over 300 words a minute (estimated) with occasional gusts even faster. Some of it we got but a lot went into interstellar space never to be heard again.
We toured outside a bit and were given a wonderful look at Saturn through a freestanding telescope on the patio. It is always exciting to find such a friendly energetic staff.
The small museum display of the Pluto discovery revealed many details for me. Pluto will always be a planet for me, no matter what the astronomers decide. The displays and lectures will vary, so call ahead or check the web to get the latest most up to date information.