Press Release

Discovery Channel Telescope Sees ‘First Light’

By SpaceRef Editor
July 23, 2012
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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.

Tom Vitron
Media and Communications Coordinator
+1 (928) 233-3260, cell: +1 (928) 853-5233

Chuck Wendt
Deputy Director for Advancement
+1 (928) 233-3201

About Discovery Channel (

Discovery Channel is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. The network, which is distributed to 100.1 million U.S. homes, can be seen in over 180 countries, offering a signature mix of compelling, high-end production values and vivid cinematography across genres including, science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world.

About Discovery Communications (

Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is the world’s number one nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 180 countries. Discovery empowers people to explore their world and satisfy their curiosity through 100-plus worldwide networks, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Investigation Discovery, Planet Green and HD Theater, as well as leading consumer and educational products and services, and a diversified portfolio of digital media services including

About Lowell Observatory (

Lowell Observatory is a private, non-profit research institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell. The Observatory has been the site of many important findings including the discovery of the large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1912-1914 (a result that led ultimately to the realization the universe is expanding), and the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Today, Lowell’s 20 astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. The Observatory welcomes about 80,000 visitors each year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona for a variety of tours, telescope viewing, and special programs. Lowell Observatory currently has four research telescopes at its Anderson Mesa dark-sky site east of Flagstaff, and recently completed a four-meter class research telescope, the Discovery Channel Telescope.

About the Discovery Channel Telescope

The Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) — being built by Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona — will be among the most technically sophisticated ground-based telescopes of its size. The Telescope, the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States, is completed and being commissioned at a dark-sky site on the Coconino National Forest approximately 45 miles SSE of Flagstaff. The project is being undertaken in partnership with Discovery Communications. Construction and commissioning of the telescope and associated infrastructure will cost approximately $53 million. The telescope will significantly augment Lowell Observatory’s observational capability and enable pioneering studies in a number of important research areas. First light, or first scientific use of the telescope, took place in May 2012.

SpaceRef staff editor.