Lowell Observatory to renovate Tombaugh’s Pluto telescope

The 1920’s era scope will be cleaned and repaired to return to tiptop shape
By | Published: January 5, 2017 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
The telescope Clyde Tombaugh used when he first saw Pluto.
Lowell Observatory

After January 12, anyone going through Lowell Observatory will not be able to see the telescope Clyde Tombaugh used to discover Pluto. The telescope is being removed temporarily for a year-long renovation project on the instrument.

The telescope may be a popular instrument to visit at the observatory, but it is in need of some major work to repair and restore it. The dome of the telescope is rotting, some parts have worn out, and several areas need to be cleaned, stripped, and repainted. Lowell’s technical staff will make sure all these issues are addressed and will also clean and repair the control mechanisms and photographic plate holders, among other accessories.

The renovation, which will cost $155,000, will both restore and preserve the 1920’s era telescope.

The Pluto Telescope is designed specifically for taking pictures of space objects and was used to study comets, asteroids, and stars with detectable proper motions, as well as the famous Pluto discovery in 1930 by Tombaugh.

“Like the Alvan Clark refractor across campus, the Pluto Discovery Telescope is a national treasure,” said Lowell Director Jeff Hall in a press release. “People come to Lowell from all over the world to see these historic telescopes, and I’m so pleased to see them restored and preserved for decades to come.”

The money for the renovation was raised through crowdsourcing, private donations, and a grant from Crystal Trust.

“We can’t undertake major projects like this without external support, and we’re grateful to everyone who has donated to make this happen,” Hall said.