Astronomer Michael West is Lowell Observatory’s new Deputy Director for Science, effective July 31, 2015. He brings more than 30 years of experience to a position that combines both elements of the Observatory’s mission, research and education.

West comes to Lowell from Nantucket’s Maria Mitchell Association, where he served as Director of Astronomy since 2013. He earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Yale University in 1987 and has since served in a number of prominent research and teaching positions. He was a tenured astronomy professor at the University of Hawaii, Head of Science Operations at the Gemini South Observatory in Chile, and Head of Science at the European Southern Observatory’s facilities in Chile.

West has published approximately 100 scientific papers on a variety of topics including star clusters, galaxy formation and evolution, clusters of galaxies, and the large-scale structure of the universe.

In 2006, he was the chief astronomy content developer for the $26 million ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii and for six years chaired the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on New Ways of Communicating Astronomy with the Public.

Lowell Observatory director Jeffrey Hall said, “Michael was chosen from a set of exceptional candidates for having the perfect blend of an established record of research, broad experience with outreach, and management skills — the entire suite of skills we were looking for in in our Deputy Director for Science.”

West said, “I’m thrilled about joining Lowell. The Observatory has an incredibly rich history and a very bright future, including its new Discovery Channel Telescope and a great outreach program that attracts 80,000 visitors per year. I can’t imagine a more exciting place to be.”

He added, “The Deputy Director for Science position is really a dream job for me. It combines what I enjoyed most in my previous positions at other observatories and universities, including science management, public education and, of course, research.”

At Lowell, West will split his time equally between research and deputy director duties, which will include helping develop and implement the Observatory’s long-range scientific vision. He said, “I really think of Lowell as ‘America’s observatory.’ It’s the place where Pluto was discovered and where some of the first observations of the expanding universe were made. Yet the Observatory has never rested on its laurels; it’s still a place where cutting-edge research is being done today and in the future. How exciting is that?!”

West will also oversee Lowell’s education and outreach efforts, which include onsite and offsite activities for both public and private groups. “I love sharing the wonders of the universe with people, and I try to do it in creative ways,” West said. “As Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer, stated, ‘We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.’ That’s my guiding philosophy. It’s also one that Percival Lowell shared.”

Josh Bangle
Communication Manager
+1 (928) 607-1974

Lowell Observatory ( is a private, non-profit research institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell. The Observatory has been the site of many important discoveries including the detection of the large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1912-1914 (a result that led ultimately to the realization the universe is expanding), and the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Today, Lowell’s 14 astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. The Observatory welcomes about 80,000 visitors each year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona for a variety of tours, telescope viewing, and special programs. Lowell Observatory currently operates four research telescopes at its Anderson Mesa dark sky site east of Flagstaff and the 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope near Happy Jack, Arizona.