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By Lauren Amundson

Percival Lowell stepped off the train in Flagstaff, Arizona on May 28, 1894. He had been in communication with his assistant, A.E. Douglass, since early March as Douglass traveled throughout the Arizona Territory looking for the perfect site to build an observatory. Lowell confirmed Flagstaff as the location in mid-April, and Douglass spent the next six weeks preparing for his boss’s arrival.

Once in Flagstaff, Lowell wasted no time beginning his astronomical work. On June 1, he and astronomer W.H. Pickering observed Mars using an 18-inch refractor on loan from lensmaker John Brashear of Pittsburgh and a 12-inch refractor borrowed from Harvard College Observatory.

Lowell’s observation notes from that night, pictured here, were the first of many. He continued his studies of the heavens until the night before he died in 1916. Our digitized collection of historic logbooks is available here.

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“That Mars is inhabited by beings of some sort or other we may consider as certain as it is uncertain what these beings may be.”

-Percival Lowell, Mars and Its Canals, 1906

 

The Lampland Diaries

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By Lauren Amundson

Our new exhibit, The Lampland Diaries, opened on May 11 in the Putnam Collection Center. It highlights the career of astronomer Carl O. Lampland, who worked at Lowell Observatory from 1902 until his death in 1951. He made more than 10,000 images of planets, comets, variable stars, nebulae, and star clusters. In the 1920s, he partnered with W.W. Coblentz of the U.S. Bureau of Standards to measure the temperatures of planets. Lampland played a significant role in the search for Planet X, which culminated in 1930 with Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto. He was also in charge of the Observatory’s library, and he designed cameras for telescopes.

Lampland kept a daily diary throughout his career, and the diaries are now housed in the Lowell Observatory Archives. He wrote about the weather, astronomy, research projects, Flagstaff news and activities, and international events.

Notable entries include Percival Lowell’s death (November 12, 1916), Armistice Day (November 11, 1918), Pluto’s discovery (February 18, 1930), the start of World War II (September 1, 1939), the bombing of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death (April 12, 1945).

In addition to the physical display here at Lowell, we created an online exhibit showcasing the digitized diaries and other items from Lampland’s papers.