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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

Study tours

Arizona: Eyes to the Sky over Flagstaff: Then and Now

November 1-5, 2016

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The clear skies of the desert Southwest have been observed by humans through the ages, from the earliest Native Americans to the scientists who staff the modern observatories. Flagstaff is home to the Lowell Observatory, founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell, who discovered the first evidence of the expansion of the universe and at whose observatory, in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered the dwarf planet Pluto.

Under the guidance of astronomers Martha Haynes and Riccardo Giovanelli, we will visit the observatory's planetarium and its solar and nighttime viewing facilities. There and at the nearby Discovery Channel Telescope, we will learn how human understanding of the universe evolved, first by viewing with the naked eye the motion of the sun, moon, planets, and stars and later through astounding images obtained by high-tech facilities on the ground and in space.

At nearby Wupatki National Monument, we'll see ruins of the dwellings of desert peoples from 11,000 BCE onward. We'll also tour Hopi land and enjoy a traditional Hopi dinner with entertainment at the cultural center, followed by star viewing with our Hopi guide—joining those who, through the millennia, have turned their eyes to the night sky to make meaning of their lives and to marvel at the workings of the universe.

Martha P. Haynes

Martha P. Haynes, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, studies the large-scale distribution of galaxies in the local universe and especially how local environment influences galaxy formation and evolution. She co-leads the Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA Survey (ALFALFA), the aim of... > more

Riccardo Giovanelli

Riccardo Giovanelli is a professor of astronomy at Cornell. His research interests are in the areas of observational cosmology and the structure, evolution, and environments of galaxies.

Born in Italy and raised in Argentina, Riccardo studied physics at the University... > more

Program notes

  • Double occupancy: $2,998
  • Single supplement: $400
  • See What's included?
  • See Travel links and resources.
  • Fitness scale: Slightly strenuous. May require extended walking over uneven ground as well as the ability to climb stairs and to stand for considerable periods of time.

Preliminary itinerary

Tuesday, November 1

Our first group event will be our welcome dinner at approximately 6:30 p.m. at the Silver Pines restaurant, part of the Little America Hotel at which we will stay for four nights. We will meet and greet each other and preview the details of Tuesday's excursion.

Wednesday, November 2

After our buffet breakfast in the Silver Pines Restaurant, we will gather for the day'⿿s two lectures:

  • What the ancients knew that you may have forgotten
  • Witnessing supernovae over historical and cosmic time

Midday, box lunch in hand, we will take off by bus for the Hopi Reservation. There we will enjoy a tour led by a Hopi guide, including exploration of a native mesa town and rich petroglyph carvings.

At the Cultural Center on Second Mesa, we'll dine on Hopi food while watching a traditional performance. Afterward, if the skies oblige, we will enjoy a display of the heavens, so brilliant only in such dark skies as these mesas provide.

Thursday, November 3

After our buffet breakfast, we will gather for the day's lecture:

  • Exploring the telescope sites in the high Atacama Desert

We will spend much of the rest of the day at the Lowell Observatory, where we will have private tours of the Pluto and the Clark telescopes. We will also visit the Rotunda Museum. Weather permitting, we'll enjoy solar viewing during the day and telescope viewing after dark with the Clark telescope, the McAllister, and a few of Lowell's portable telescopes.

Lunch and dinner on the go.

Friday, November 4

After our buffet breakfast, we will gather for our last two lectures:

  • What cosmic background radiation tells us about the universe
  • Gravitational waves, nearby extrasolar planets, and other recent discoveries

Late in the morning, with box lunches in hand, we will take off by bus for the Meteor Crater Monument, where a guide will give us an hour's tour.

Back in Flagstaff, we may have a little free time before our farewell dinner.

Saturday, November 5

After our buffet breakfast, we will bid each other adieu and head for home.


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