Lowell Observatory unveiled the new Giovale Open Deck Observatory to attract visitors from around the globe. The Giovale Observatory, which opened Oct. 5, includes an enclosed deck with a retractable roof and walls that are designed to reveal the stars during clear nights. Inside the building, Lowell employees introduced six advanced telescopes for visitors to use to gaze at the night sky.
“There honestly are not telescopes like this anywhere in the world,” Lowell Director Jeffery Hall said.
Crowds gathered to witness the opening of the telescopes Saturday, and additional visitors waited in line to take their turns at the various viewfinders. Lowell employees walked under the dark sky, showcasing constellations and planets with their powerful laser pointers. Many visitors, already impressed with the previous telescopes, were starstruck by the new deck.
“It makes you feel like you saw a planet for the first time,” Phoenix resident Chris Gaus said after looking through one of the telescopes.
The Giovale Open Deck Observatory also includes a contemporary astro lab for the public. The astro lab showcases several plaques that depict various levels of light pollution in different cities in the United States. Additionally, the facility features several plinths, which are constructed to align with the sun during different solar events, such as the solstice and equinox.
The new amenities at Lowell represent the beginning of extensive renovation and expansion. The Giovale Observatory is a part of the master plan, which will add several new buildings to observatory grounds, as stated in an Aug. 26 press release.
Lowell Observatory hosted numerous member preview nights leading up to the opening of the Giovale Observatory. During member previews, technical project manager David Sawyer said the planned additions include an astronomy and discovery center, a cafe, a gift shop, a children’s exhibit and an additional theater. Sawyer added the plan is focused on improving the experience for visitors.
Another major addition is a dark sky planetarium and terrarium, which is intended to be a fully immersive and an unparalleled experience. During member preview nights, Sawyer explained how the facility will include a rooftop garden and potentially heated seats for visitors to utilize during cold nights.
Another innovative experience, which will be featured in future plans, is a universe theater, which will project video onto a wrap-around screen.
The new additions intend to make Lowell the best in the world for this type of experience, Sawyer said.
“This [Giovale Open Deck Observatory] is the appetizer,” Hall said. “The entree will be the $29 million project we’re building.”
Danielle Adams, deputy director for marketing and communications, also spoke at Lowell Observatory’s member opening previews. Adams said that through the construction and implementation of new facilities, the observatory aims to provide structured growth. Additionally, from a marketing and publicity standpoint, everything is preplanned and will account for the anticipated influx of visitors.
The development of Lowell Observatory could also contribute to increased tourism for the city. For example, Adams said the observatory currently attracts 150,000 visitors per year. However, with the addition of the Giovale Observatory, Lowell is estimating nearly 250,000 to 300,000 visitors annually.
In total, the Giovale Open Deck Observatory took just over two years to complete. The next phase of the master plan, the Astronomy Discovery Center, was recently awarded a sizable grant. According to a press release from Lowell Observatory, the grant is valued at $14.5 million, or 50% of the $29 million needed to fund the discovery center.
Adams said the expansion is expected to conclude within four years. The Astronomy Discovery Center, which is privately funded, will begin construction once 80% of funding is obtained. Adams said that Lowell will seek permits for the center in January 2020.
The Giovale Observatory is named after Lowell Observatory philanthropists John and Ginger Giovale and was created to give visitors greater access and connection to stargazing.
For information on prices and updates on the coming developments visit the Lowell Observatory website.