The first images from the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona are touching down, nearly a decade since the partnership was formed, and two decades since the Observatory set out to build a world-class research instrument for its facility. The images, of objects like the Whirlpool Galaxy M51 (pictured above) and Sombrero Galaxy M104, were captured back in May, but only shown publicly for the first time at the Lowell’s First Light Gala event on Saturday. Named after the cable TV channel, the 4.3-meter (169-inch) DCT is the fifth-largest optical telescope in the Continental US, and the $53 million it cost to build was paid without any federal or state funding.
Initially, scientists are going to use the DCT to look at objects in the Kupier belt beyond Neptune and Pluto, and hopefully settle some open questions about how dwarf galaxies are formed. Something to keep in mind the next time you instinctively reach for the high-megapixel body at the camera shop: the DCT’s camera takes 16-megapixel images; the same size as shots from the HTC Titan II.