Clyde Tombaugh was a Kansas farm boy in the 1920s who couldn’t afford college so he just did what he could on the farm in his spare time: Built his own telescopes and took meticulous notes about his night-sky observations. He sent his notes to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff AZ when he heard they were hiring and his notes got him a job. The Lowell Observatory is a private institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell, son of wealthy Massachusetts industrialists and educators. Lowell was convinced another planet beyond Neptune influenced its orbit and Tombaugh, using the 24-inch Clark refracting telescope (pictured above) found Pluto in 1930. It turned out that Lowell was wrong about Pluto’s influence on Neptune. Eventually Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in Kuiper belt. But the Clark telescope is still a remarkable instrument, still functional and available for viewing the night sky by the likes of you and me. Lowell invites folks up to the observatory on clear nights to get a closeup view of stars, nebula, galaxies. At our visit there this month, Craig and I saw the Orion Nebula using the 126-year-old Clark telescope. We also got introduced to the stunning Cigar Galaxy. Exciting research continues at Lowell. This is why we travel.
Post-work Friday, me ‘n’ Andrew tired and cranky and trying to get out the door for a two-hour drive to meet friends at a cabin on Odell Lake. We halfway don’t even want to go because we are so tired and so cranky. But we committed and by 7:30 p.m.,. we’re on the road. By 8:30, we’re less cranky. By 9:30 we’re slip-sliding in the snow and then walking into the cabin where our friends have a fire going in the wood stove, the wine open and a board game underway. After getting settled we walk out to the meadow where a brilliant almost full moon and several bright planets are shining down on us.
All tired crankiness forgotten. All petty hurts from the week gone. Healed.