Discovery Channel Telescope

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Discovery Channel Telescope
The Dome of Discovery Channel Telecope.JPG
The dome of Discovery Channel Telescope
Alternative namesDCT Edit this at Wikidata
Named afterDiscovery Channel Edit this on Wikidata
ObservatoryLowell Observatory Edit this on Wikidata
Location(s)Coconino National Forest, Arizona, US
Coordinates34°44′40″N 111°25′19″W / 34.7444°N 111.422°W / 34.7444; -111.422Coordinates: 34°44′40″N 111°25′19″W / 34.7444°N 111.422°W / 34.7444; -111.422 Edit this at Wikidata
OrganizationLowell Observatory Edit this on Wikidata
Altitude2,360 m (7,740 ft) Edit this at Wikidata
Built2006 Edit this on Wikidata–2012 Edit this on Wikidata (2006 Edit this on Wikidata–2012 Edit this on Wikidata) Edit this at Wikidata
First lightApril 2012 Edit this on Wikidata
Telescope styleOptical telescope
Reflecting telescope
Ritchey–Chrétien telescope Edit this on Wikidata
Diameter4.3 m (14 ft 1 in) Edit this at Wikidata
Secondary diameter1.4 m (4 ft 7 in) Edit this at Wikidata
Angular resolution0.03 arcsecond Edit this on Wikidata
MountingAltazimuth mount Edit this on Wikidata Edit this at Wikidata
EnclosureSpherical dome Edit this on Wikidata Edit this at Wikidata
Discovery Channel Telescope is located in the US
Discovery Channel Telescope
Location of Discovery Channel Telescope
Discovery Channel Telescope

The Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) is a 4.3 m (170 in) aperture telescope built by Lowell Observatory and The Discovery Channel.[1][2] DCT was built at a dark sky site in the Coconino National Forest near Happy Jack, Arizona.[3] Happy Jack is located at an elevation of 2,360 m (7,740 ft) and is approximately 65 km (40 mi) south-south-east of Flagstaff. The project was initially a partnership between Discovery Communications and Lowell Observatory. The research partnerships have been extended to include Boston University, The University of Maryland, The University of Toledo, and Northern Arizona University. In its initial implementation, the telescope will cost approximately US$53 million. The telescope will significantly augment Lowell Observatory’s observational capability and enable pioneering studies in a number of important research areas.

Final construction of the telescope was completed by February 2012 and first light images were taken in April 2012.[1]


The DCT is designed to support a variety of optical configurations. The phase one configuration will be ideal for high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy both at visible and the near-infrared wavelengths. The telescope is designed to allow a very large, 2.0-degree field of view in its prime focus implementation – a possible future upgrade. Accordingly, the DCT will feature exceptional ability to perform deep imaging surveys of the night sky, while retaining the ability to be switched to the alternate Ritchey-Chrétien mode, allowing it, unlike pure survey telescopes, to be highly effective during the bright phases of the Moon. The DCT was designed by Alan Dodson.


Lowell Observatory and Discovery Communications formed a partnership to build the Discovery Channel Telescope in February 2003. A special-use permit for construction and operation of the telescope at the Happy Jack site was received from the United States Forest Service in November 2004 and improvement of an existing road to the site commenced immediately. The primary mirror blank was completed by Corning in late 2005. Construction of the 26-meter-tall (85-foot), 19-meter-diameter (62-foot) telescope enclosure and an auxiliary support building began in mid-September 2005. Final figuring and polishing of the mirror, which weighs about 3,000 kg (6,700 lb), was completed by the University of Arizona's College of Optical Sciences. This process took about three years. The mirror was delivered to the site in June 2010, subsequently aluminized, and mounted on the telescope in August 2011. The telescope saw first light in 2012 and it was fully operational that year.[1] It was only expected to be a 4.2 m, but it turned out 4.3 m (14 ft) could be used.[1]


The telescope will initially be applied to a wide and evolving range of research topics. Initially these will include a survey of the composition of Kuiper Belt objects orbiting the sun beyond Neptune, studies of the physical properties of comets, investigations of the evolution and structure of small galaxies, plus studies of the masses of stars, to name a few.

Project Leaders include Dr. Jeffrey Hall, Director, Lowell Observatory; Dr. Stephen Levine, Commissioning Scientist; Bill DeGroff, Project Manager; Dr. Edward Dunham, Instrument Manager; and Ralph Nye, Director of Technical Services.

P/2016 BA14 was identified as a comet using observations from the Discovery Channel Telescope.[4] When the comet approached Earth within 2.2 million miles (about 9 lunar distances), the size of the nucleus to be calculated to be 250 meters (820 feet) in diameter.[5] The object was discovered by a PanSTARRS telescope, but not identified as a comet at that time.[6]

In 2017, DCT achieved 282 nights out of the year (365 days) of scheduled observations for science.[7]


At 4.3 m (14 ft), the DCT is the fifth largest optical telescope in the continental United States, following the Hobby-Eberly Telescope 9.2 m (30 ft) segmented telescope, the Large Binocular Telescope twin 8.4 m (28 ft) telescopes, the MMT 6.5 m (21 ft) telescope, and the Hale 5.08 m (16.7 ft) telescope.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "DCT Science: Status". Lowell Observatory. 24 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  2. ^ Discovery Channel Telescope web page
  3. ^ Robinson, Walt (2005). "Discovery Channel Telescope". Reflector. The Astronomical League. LVII (4): 11.
  4. ^ "Flyby Comet Was WAY Bigger Than Thought". Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  5. ^ "Flyby Comet Was WAY Bigger Than Thought". Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  6. ^ "Flyby Comet Was WAY Bigger Than Thought". Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  7. ^ "Lowell Observatory enters new age". Retrieved 2018-11-07.

External links[edit]