Ground breaks on Lowell’s new visitor center

The historic observatory’s upcoming Astronomy Discovery Center will bring the outer reaches of the cosmos a little closer to home.
By | Published: June 30, 2021 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Lowell Observatory
As a few raindrops came down around the crowd gathered in a wooded area atop Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona, Lowell Observatory broke ground on its new Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Astronomy Discovery Center (ADC). The building is set to open in 2024.

The new educational center will be six times the size of Lowell Observatory’s current visitor facility, which opened in 2005. The ADC is designed for curious visitors of all ages, with a special aim to inspire the next generation of astronomers.

“This fabulous discovery center will propel Lowell Observatory forward in its quest to become the world’s premier astronomy destination,” Lowell Observatory staff member Kevin Schindler tells Astronomy.

The world-famous Lowell Observatory has been operating for more than 125 years. It is known as the home of some of the most important astronomical discoveries, including the expansion of the universe and the discovery of Pluto. Lowell also sees community outreach as an important part of its contribution to astronomy, and has been increasing its efforts in this area even further over the past few years.

The new 40,000-square-foot (3,710 square meters) ADC will host the interactive Universe Theater for presentations and guest speakers; the Curiosity Zone exhibit hall designed for hands-on learning for children; and the Diverse Universe Exhibit, which is meant to inspire children to picture themselves as scientists and will also feature scientists from around the world. On the ADC’s top floor the Dark Sky Planetarium won’t use a projector, but instead the Observatory’s dark skies as a natural planetarium dome.

The ADC was announced in 2019, amid a busy year at the observatory. That same year, Lowell opened a $4 million deck observatory with six mounted telescopes for visitors to stare off into the cosmos — and to alleviate crowds and long lines as interest in the night sky grew.

As the world begins to reopen after widespread shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this $37.5-million visitor center will help turn Lowell Observatory into a must-see astronomical spot.