Press Release

Lowell Observatory and Discovery Communications Reach Milestone in Construction of Discovery Channel Telescope

By SpaceRef Editor
July 12, 2005
Filed under ,

Telescope Will Be Among Most Sophisticated Ground-based Telescopes of
its Size

Happy Jack, AZ – Lowell Observatory and Discovery Communications break
ground today on the versatile, 4.2-meter Discovery Channel Telescope.
With a phase-one cost of $35 million, the telescope will be the fifth
largest telescope in the continental United States and one of the most
sophisticated ground-based telescopes of its size. Today’s
groundbreaking is a major milestone on the path towards a new
astronomical research era for the 111-year-old Lowell Observatory, and
presents unique, far-reaching programming and educational opportunities
for media industry leader and telescope sponsor, Discovery
Communications. The telescope site is located north of the U.S. Forest
Service Happy Jack Ranger Station, Coconino National Forest. The agency
issued the special use permit to build in this location. Forest Service
officials will take part in a groundbreaking ceremony along with Lowell
Observatory supporters, astronomers, and Discovery executives.

“Today’s groundbreaking is one more important step towards the
realization of a dream that began just over a decade ago when Lowell
Observatory celebrated its centennial year,” said Bob Millis, Director,
Lowell Observatory. “With this new telescope, Lowell astronomers will
be equipped to continue cutting-edge research well into our
institution’s second century and, through the magnificent programming
capabilities of our partner, Discovery Communications, we will see the
results of that research brought into living rooms and classrooms
around the world,” said Millis.

“Twenty years ago, Discovery Communications began its mission of
enabling people to explore their world and satisfy their natural
curiosity through high-quality real-world programming,” said John S.
Hendricks, Founder and Chairman of Discovery Communications. “Today we
are proud to advance that mission with the Discovery Channel Telescope.
By significantly improving the exploration of our solar system and the
universe beyond, Discovery and Lowell Observatory will bring the most
exciting new discoveries found in our universe to millions of people
around the globe.”

Expected to be fully operational by 2010, the Discovery Channel
Telescope will enable Lowell astronomers to enter new research areas
and conduct many existing programs much more efficiently. Among the
telescope’s numerous scientific objectives, the search for near-Earth
asteroids, Kuiper Belt Objects, and planets orbiting other stars, will
be substantially advanced. The Discovery Channel Telescope will make it
possible to identify potentially life-threatening near-Earth asteroids
much sooner than the technology currently available. Similar results
are expected in the search for Kuiper Belt Objects, of which just over
1,000 have been identified and can range in size from that of large
asteroids to objects potentially comparable in size to the planet
Pluto. The Kuiper Belt, the first objects of which were discovered in
1992, is a sun-centered swarm of orbiting icy bodies extending from
Neptune to as yet unknown distances.

The 4.2-meter telescope ultimately will have a significantly wider
field of view than any currently existing telescope of its size, giving
it the unprecedented ability to survey the sky at nearly eight times
the capacity of the largest existing survey telescope. In this
wide-field mode, the DCT’s ability to perform deep imaging surveys of
the night sky will be unmatched. This versatile telescope can be
quickly converted to its alternative optical configuration, allowing
it, unlike other pure survey telescopes, to be highly effective during
bright phases of the moon. Once operational, the DCT also will have
real-time capability, allowing the images acquired by the telescope to
be simultaneously broadcast to people around the world.

Currently, the design of the telescope’s major optical and mechanical
components is being refined. The 14-foot-diameter primary mirror blank
will be completed in September by Corning, Inc., Canton, New York. The
access road to the Happy Jack site has been completed, and construction
of the building for the Discovery Channel Telescope will begin in late
summer. Design currently continues on the following telescope
components: optical system by Goodrich Corporation in Danbury, Conn.;
facility and site design by M3 Engineering in Tucson, Ariz.; and the
telescope mount by Vertex RSI in Richardson, Texas. The camera that
Lowell will design and build for the 4.2-meter telescope will have 40
2K by 4K charge-coupled devices capable of acquiring enormous amounts
of data from each exposure and has a two degree field of view.

About Discovery Communications

Discovery Communications is the leading global real-world media and
entertainment company. Discovery has grown from its core property, the
Discovery Channel, first launched in the United States in 1985, to
current global operations in more than 160 countries and territories
with 1.2 billion cumulative subscribers. DCI’s over 90 networks of
distinctive programming represent 25 network entertainment brands
including TLC, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery Health Channel,
Discovery Kids, Discovery Times Channel, The Science Channel, Military
Channel, Discovery Home Channel, Discovery en Español, Discovery Kids
En Español, Discovery HD Theater, FitTV, Discovery Travel & Living
(Viajar y Vivir), Discovery Home & Health and Discovery Real Time.
DCI’s other properties consist of Discovery Education and Discovery
Commerce, which operates 120 Discovery Channel retail stores. DCI also
distributes BBC America in the United States. DCI’s ownership consists
of four shareholders: Liberty Media Corporation (NYSE: L), Cox
Communications, Inc., Advance/Newhouse Communications and John S.
Hendricks, the Company’s Founder and Chairman.

About Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory, founded in 1894 in Flagstaff, was the first
astronomical observatory in Arizona. The first evidence of the
expansion of the universe was discovered at Lowell in 1912-1917. The
planet Pluto was discovered there in 1930. Today, Lowell’s 18
astronomers pursue a broad range of astronomical research using both
ground-based and space-based telescopes. Visit www.lowell.edu.

Background on the Discovery Channel Telescope and Lowell Observatory,
and biographical information on key spokespersons are online at:
http://www.lowell.edu/press_room/media_kit.html.

SpaceRef staff editor.