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- Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory Celebrates 75th Anniversary of Pluto Discovery -

 With some of the darkest skies in North America and hundreds of cloudless nights each year, Arizona is quickly becoming a haven for both professional and amateur stargazers.

  In northern Arizona, Flagstaff is the perfect place to stargaze and is home to the Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered 75 years ago. To celebrate the 75th anniversary, Lowell Observatory is planning a special program for visitors on February 18, 2005 which includes a lecture presentation for all ages that will highlight the historic Pluto discovery, the only planet in our solar system discovered in the United States.

Lowell Observatory is a privately owned astronomical research institution located at an elevation of 7,260 feet. Boston mathematician Percival Lowell founded the Observatory in 1894. Best known for the discovery of Pluto, Lowell Observatory is also where scientists gathered the first evidence of the expanding universe. Today the Observatory's astronomers carry out forefront research in all areas of astronomy.

The Observatory also maintains a vigorous education and outreach program, headquartered in the 6,500-square-foot Steele Visitor Center on Mars Hill. Each year, more than 70,000 people visit the Observatory to learn about astronomy by participating in group tours, multimedia programs, and other educational activities. For more information, call 928-774-3358or visit www.lowell.edu.

Beyond Flagstaff, observatories and planetariums are open to visitors across the state, catering to those who wish to explore the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Here are just a few of the additional stargazing opportunities that Arizona has to offer:

Kitt Peak Observatory

The world's largest collection of optical telescopes is located high above the Sonoran Desert about 90 minutes southwest of Tucson. Kitt Peak Observatory, on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, is home to twenty-two optical and two radio telescopes representing eight astronomical research institutions. The facility offers a renowned public evening program allowing visitors to gain hands-on experience with the telescopes. Participants can view planets, stars and even other galaxies. This program is offered to a small group of up to 36 participants every night of the week (except July 15 &endash; September 1). Reservations must be made in advance. For more information visit http://www.noao.edu/kpno/ or call (520) 318-8726.

Challenger Space Center of Arizona

Located in Peoria, The Challenger Space Center of Arizona is a Smithsonian-affiliated institution providing hands-on space and stargazing programs. The center includes a wide range of rotating exhibits, stargazing programs, planetarium programs and simulated space missions. The Challenger Center is a fun and educational site for the entire family. For more information, call 623-322-2001 or visit www.azchallenger.org.

Fred Whipple Observatory

The Smithsonian Institution's Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory is located on Mount Hopkins of the Santa Rita Range of the Coronado National Forest (56 air kilometres south of Tucson). Research activities include spectroscopic observations of extragalactic, stellar and planetary bodies, gamma ray and cosmic ray astronomy and environmental studies. Ten and 11-meter optical arrays and 1.2- and 1.5 meter reflecting telescopes as well as other telescopes and meteorological instruments are located on a half-mile long ridge at the 7600-foot elevation. The Multiple Mirror Telescope (world's 4th largest telescope) is on the 8550-foot summit of Mount Hopkins. The Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory offers a Visitor Center featuring displays and exhibits on astronomy and astrophysics, natural science, and cultural history. For more information call 520-670-5707 or visit: http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/flwo/index.html.

Mt Lemmon Observatory

This 20-acre site was formerly a Radar Base for the Air Defense Command and was converted into an observatory for infrared astronomy in October 1970. A geodesic dome houses a radar tracking station operated from Ft. Huachuca and is the lone remaining military presence on the mountain. This station is used to direct the Space Shuttle in case of an emergency landing in White Sands, NM. There is also a former communications center for the Titan missile defense system.

Star Haven Observatory

Star Haven Observatory, located in the quiet town of Palominas in the southeastern corner of the state, was designed and constructed by the owner, Doug Snyder. It was finished in February, 2001 and has quickly become a favorite spot for local stargazers. The observatory presently houses three telescopes, the main instrument being a 20-inch reflecting telescope. The observatory is also home to a 10- inch Schmidt-Cassegrain type and an 8-inch Dobsonian. The owner of the observatory is credited as the co-discoverer of the Comet Snyder-Murakami in March, 2002. For more information visit: http://www.palominas.com/observatory01.htm

To obtain more information or brochures on the excitement Arizona has to offer year-round, travel trade and media may contact the Arizona Office of Tourism (Canada) at 55 Town Centre Court, Suite 642, Toronto, Ontario M1P 4X4, tel: (416) 861-1240; fax (416) 861-1108, or email: azinfo@travelmarketingexperts.com. Additional media information can be found at pressroom.arizonaguide.com. Consumers may call toll-free at 1-866-275-5843 or visit www.ArizonaGuide.com.