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Help Lowell Observatory restore its 117-year-old Clark Telescope, the non-profit's first major research instrument and its primary public-program telescope.
Samantha Christensen
Email Verified
Flagstaff, Arizona
United States
3 Team Members


Though we didn't quite get to our online goal, we are proud to announce that we reached our initial total goal through the kindness of several individuals!

We are in the process of getting perks ready to send out to all the generous "Restore The Clark" donors.

We plan to start the restoration this fall and will be keeping people updated via exclusive member media (newsletters, video updates), lowell.edu, our Facebook page and our Twitter feed (@PercivalLowell).

If you are still interested in helping, there are many more Clark items that need restoring. We budgeted only for essential restoration work but we really would like to address every telescope and dome issue, including new needs we might discover when we begin the work. Contact Samantha at schristensen@lowell.edu or (928) 233-3263 for more information.

We're so excited to finally be able to fully "Restore The Clark"! 
Thanks again and see you soon on Mars Hill...
Clark with visitors

After 117 years of service, the massive Clark Telescope needs an overhaul so it can continue to be the centerpiece of our public program for the next century. However, such an effort isn't easy or cheap so we need your help!

The Clark has wowed more than 2 million people and, as we expand our public offerings, we are preparing to show the night skies above to 1 million people with the Clark in the next decade alone!

"There's definitely an important historic significance to the location but I think to remain significant going forward, [the Clark] has to participate in astronomy somehow. There aren't currently scientists using the telescope to make discoveries but there is an important aspect of public involvement and public education where it is a valuable and important tool to help make more of the public aware of what is above our heads. I think that's the role for the telescope going forward."

-Emily Lakdawalla, Senior Editor, The Planetary Society

Raising $257K will allow us to make the improvements necessary to keep the so-called "People's Telescope" in operation. Aside from regular public visitation, the Clark is used for school visits, our Uncle Percy's Kids Camp, astronomy club visits, and as many special programs as it can support.

This steampunk behemoth is the "showstopper" when you visit Lowell and we simply cannot let the show actually come to a grinding halt! See below for more Clark history and details on the restoration work it badly needs.  Also check out our multimedia campaign updates (tab above).

Thanks for your support!

Clark fixed on the Moon


In 1895, Lowell Observatory founder Percival Lowell commissioned the Alvan Clark & Sons Firm of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts to build a state-of-the-art 24” refracting telescope. Since completion of the project the following year, the telescope has been in regular use to view the heavens and help unravel the wonders of the universe. While Lowell staff members have conscientiously maintained the telescope through the years, the facility is now in need of a large-scale overhaul, requiring disassembly of the telescope and replacement of parts no longer functioning properly.

Percival Lowell initially used the telescope to further his legendary theories about intelligent life on Mars, research that brought worldwide attention to Lowell Observatory. Percival’s elegant writings about his research, based on observations made with the Clark Telescope, inspired the work of both scientists, such as rocket expert Robert Goddard, and writers, including science fiction icons H.G Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Clark in 1905

Later generations used the Clark Telescope to study double stars, moons, comets, and more. Of particular note, V.M. Slipher revolutionized our understanding of space with his observations of the expanding nature of the universe. He made these fundamental discoveries while using the Clark Telescope in conjunction with an instrument called a spectrograph, a device astronomers use to not only determine the composition of celestial objects, but also detect their line-of-site-motion.

In the 1960s, a team of scientists and artists used the Clark Telescope to create detailed maps of the moon in support of America’s manned voyages to the moon. Apollo astronauts studied these maps and some even used the Clark Telescope for part of their training to go to the moon.

By the 1980s, education replaced research as the primary use of the Clark Telescope. Since 1994, more than a million guests have had the opportunity to enjoy the telescope by joining daytime historic tours or viewing celestial objects during the evening. In 2012, 80,000 people – including 7,500 school children – visited the facility.  By 2015, we anticipate these numbers to increase to 110,000 and 8,500.  

In 2012, Lowell launched a new education initiative, Uncle Percy’s Kids Camp, and in 2013 we are moving forth with other efforts, including an ambitious long-range plan to establish the Observatory as a center for STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. The Clark Telescope is critical to the long-term success of these endeavors.

During the past several years, the telescope has become more and more difficult to move, due to the degradation of the main support bearings in the optical tube. If this problem continues, the telescope will become inoperable. To avoid this outcome, we will remove (using a crane) and dismantle the optical tube and replace faulty parts, most of which will be fabricated in-house.

We will also clean all components, including the primary lens, optical tube, and main pier. If necessary, we will strip and recoat the pier.   

Old wiring is a major safety issue with the dome, recently resulting in sparking and arcing. We will thus replace all existing wiring, as well as switch gear and load center.

We will also replace the shutter doors, which no longer operate properly on a regular basis (leaving us with no other option on some nights but to shut down the facility). Additionally, we will repair metal siding, particularly in areas where snow and rain enter the dome, and refinish the floor.  

We will complete the project within nine months of receiving funding, with most of the work done onsite. This will allow visitors to see progress first-hand. We will then host a dedication and grand reopening of the telescope.  

Ralph Nye, Lowell’s Senior Facilities Engineer, will supervise and, in many cases, perform, the work. Instrument Maker Steve Lauman will fabricate the replacement parts. To assure compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, the Observatory will retain the services of an historic preservation architect, who will interface with the State of Arizona Historic Preservation Office.

For more information about the Clark Telescope Historic Preservation Project, please contact Lowell Outreach Manager Kevin Schindler at kevin@lowell.edu or (928) 233-3210. 

Your help is crucial for the continued operation of what is now the "People's Telescope." Please help us by making a contribution, if you are able, and by sharing our story with your friends and family. Thank you and see you soon on Mars Hill!

Find This Campaign On
raised by 481 people in 2 months
49% funded
No time left
Verified Nonprofit
$89,550 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on May 12, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $5USD
    Lowell Observatory pen

    The pen was once the analog astronomer's greatest tool. Donate $5 and receive a Lowell Observatory pen, with which you can sketch the heavens.

    46 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $10USD
    Clark Telescope magnet

    Are you stuck on the Clark Telescope? Donate $10 and you can stick the Clark to your fridge.

    68 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $25USD
    Clark Telescope poster

    Can't make it to Flagstaff to visit the Clark? Donate $25 and we'll send the Clark to you! This poster, as seen in our introductory video, highlights the dome interior, the telescope, and its quirky features such as the frying-pan lens cap on the "12 finder telescope.

    49 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $25USD
    2nd poster (as seen on TV)

    Did you know that the Clark Telescope has been seen on TV many times, on everything from iconic science programs to top-rated sitcoms? Donate $25 and we'll send a poster featuring the Clark during nighttime observing (as seen on TV). See our latest campaign update and photo gallery for a closer look. Does the image look familiar??

    3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $50USD
    "The Explorers of Mars Hill"

    Percival Lowell's spirit is still alive in his grandnephew, William Lowell Putnam III. Donate $50 and receive an autographed copy of Putnam's history of Lowell Observatory, "The Explorers of Mars Hill". This colorful account of the Observatory's history highlights the travails and successes that come with running this venerable institution.

    75 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $100USD
    Clark Telescope T-shirt

    Do you feel naked without the Clark Telescope? Donate $100 and receive a navy blue T-shirt featuring a blueprint of the Clark Telescope and Dome. Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL available. If need be, we will contact you to confirm size.

    68 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $250USD
    Clark Telescope ornament

    You can't take the Clark home with you but you can take the ornament. Donate $250 and receive a detailed ornament with a 3D feel that brings the telescope to life.

    3 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $300USD
    FINAL Perk of the Week

    Choose from one of two sublime lithographs - "Golden Spiral" or "Stream of Stars" - by internationally acclaimed artist (and Lowell advisory board member) Mr. Greg Mort. His artwork often combines his passions for art and astronomy and is in museum collections around the world, including the Smithsonian. Visit GregMortEditions.com and GregMort.com for more about him. See the gallery tab above for images of the lithographs. Ten of each lithograph are available.

    2 out of 20 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $500USD
    DCT Tour (updated)

    When built, the Clark Telescope was a state-of-the-art instrument that allowed V.M. Slipher to discover the expanding nature of the universe. Donate $500 to see our current state-of-the-art telescope that will continue our tradition of breakthrough discoveries, the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT). This daytime tour includes a box lunch and a photo of yourself with the telescope. You'll also receive an invitation to the Grand Re-Opening of the Clark Telescope. Limit two guests per tour.

    6 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $1,000USD
    Evening at the Clark (updated)

    Donate $1000 and you and your invited guests (up to 20) will have the opportunity to view through the newly renovated Clark during a 90-minute personal viewing session with an educator. You'll also receive a lucite cube with a 3D laser-etched rendering of the Clark Telescope (comes complete with a lighted base). This lucite etching is EXCLUSIVE to the "Restore The Clark" campaign. Additionally, you'll receive an invitation to the Grand Re-Opening of the Clark Telescope.

    6 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $1,000USD
    Webinar with Lowell Astronomer

    Donate $1000 and you'll have the opportunity to chat live with a Lowell Observatory astronomer during an exclusive 45-minute webinar. The webinar will consist of a presentation followed by a Q and A period. Some sample topics include: dwarf galaxies, exoplanets, and interferometry. You'll also receive a lucite cube with a 3D laser-etched rendering of the Clark Telescope. Additionally, you'll receive an invitation to the Grand Re-Opening of the Clark Telescope.

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $2,500USD
    Telescope Tour Package **NEW**

    Donate $2500 and you'll receive a Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) tour (limit two guests per tour) and a 90-minute personal viewing session through the Clark with an educator and up to 20 invited guests. You'll also receive a lucite cube with a 3D laser-etched rendering of the Clark Telescope (comes complete with a lighted base). This lucite etching is EXCLUSIVE to the "Restore The Clark" campaign. Additionally, you'll receive an invitation to the Grand Re-Opening of the Clark Telescope.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
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