February 18 celebrates the 90th Anniversary of the discovery of Pluto by New Mexico’s most famous adopted astronomer, Clyde W. Tombaugh who made the discovery at just 24 years old; Tombaugh would have been 114 this February 4.
On Friday, February 7, Dr. John Spencer, Deputy Project Scientist on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, shares his personal experiences exploring this distant world during the February Launch Pad Lecture.
It’s been a rocky road for the little planet at the end of the solar system. If not for the Lowell Observatory’s willingness to try a young self-trained dreamer in 1929, Tombaugh might have never become an astronomer. If not for Tombaugh’s determination to fulfill Percival Lowell’s legacy to find Planet X, Pluto might have never been discovered. And if not for the International Astronomical Union’s drive to define exactly what a planet is, Pluto might still be a full-fledged planet. But on August 24, 2006, Tombaugh’s wobbly discovery was demoted to a dwarf planet.
Despite Pluto’s downgrade, NASA was still on track to explore it and had already launched the New Horizons spacecraft on January 19 of that same year.
Nine years later, New Horizons became the first to get up close and personal with Pluto under the direction of a team of scientists and researchers like John Spencer.
Dr. John Spencer is a Staff Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, where he also holds the title of Deputy Project Scientist on the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Spencer is the guest speaker for the Museum of Space History’s monthly Launch Pad Lecture on Friday, February 7. He will be talking about his experiences with the New Horizons mission and what we might look forward to as the mission continues.
The Launch Pad Lecture begins at 9:00 am on the museum’s first floor and is free to the public. Coffee and donuts are compliments of the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation.
The Launch Pad Lectures are streamed live on Periscope and are also available after the lecture on the museum’s YouTube channel.
The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at www.nmspacemuseum.org website or ‘Like’ their Facebook page.