RMSC Science Stories

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The Day I Discovered Pluto

The Day I Discovered Pluto

With a curious mind and upward gaze, I watched the sky. My eyes soared past the moon, past Neptune, into the speckled expanse of stars and settled on a dot that wasn’t quite like the rest. No, it wasn’t a star. It was another planet - It was Pluto.

 Then the stars and planets began to fade, the sky whitened and I was back in the Strasenburgh Planetarium, watching the giant star projector “Carl” sink back noiselessly into the floor.

That’s discovery.

Clyde W. TombaughDon’t worry. I’m well aware that Clyde Tombaugh found Pluto first, 85 years before me, from an observatory in Arizona, but watching the “Pluto at Last” star show unfold on the giant screen before me, it’s hard to tell the difference.

“Pluto at Last” takes you step by step through Pluto’s tumultuous story including the first suspicion of its existence, the actual discovery of Pluto, its demotion to “dwarf planet” and the new details coming to us daily from the Pluto flyby spacecraft, New Horizons. Seeing Tombaugh’s original photos and hearing from the young British girl who suggested Pluto’s name, it’s easy to forget that you’re not right alongside the astronomers exploring this “Third Zone” of the solar system from 1930 to today.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Pluto story is that so much of its history is still being written. Because of the distance that information must travel from New Horizons back to Earth, new photos and data from the Pluto flyby will be flowing in for a total of 16 months. Though you only have until Sept. 7 to come see “Pluto at Last” at the Strasenburgh Planetarium, we all will have plenty more to watch over the next year in space research as the rest of the story unfolds.

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Monday, 19 February 2018

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