Clyde Discovers Pluto


Clyde Tombaugh was born into a small farming family in Streator, Illinois, in 1906. His desire to attend college was ended, it seemed, when a hailstorm destroyed the family crop. He turned his attention to astronomy and built his own telescope. After sending drawings he had completed based on his observations to the staff at Lowell Observatory, they immediately hired him on despite having no degrees.

While working for the observatory, he was assigned the nearly hopeless task of pursuing Planet X, which had been predicted by Percival Lowell & William Pickering.

And then.

On this day in 1930 he discovered it.

It would soon be called Pluto.

And, as we know, enjoyed a brief time as the ninth planet, before being demoted a couple of years ago…

After the discovery he went on to earn an undergraduate degree as well as a masters. He continued to work as an astronomer and eventually as a college professor. He was also noted for calling for a rigorous scientific investigation of UFOs.

In 1992, JPL scientist Robert Staehle called Tombaugh and asked for his permission to visit “his planet.” This would end up being the New Horizons project.

According to Wikipedia, upon which this brief piece was based, “Tombaugh died on January 17, 1997 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, at the age of 90. Approximately one ounce of his ashes is being carried on the New Horizons space probe. The container includes the inscription: ‘Interred herein are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system’s ‘third zone’. Adelle and Muron’s boy, Patricia’s husband, Annette and Alden’s father, astronomer, teacher, punster, and friend: Clyde W. Tombaugh (1906–1997)’.”

Oh. Yes. Also.

Clyde Tombaugh was a life long and active Unitarian Universalist.

Just thought you’d like to know…

  • http://laurelsplutoblog.blogspot.com Laurel Kornfeld

    Pluto still IS a planet according to many astronomers. There is no need to portray the controversial 2006 demotion as fact when that is far from the case. Only four percent of the IAU voted on it, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was opposed in a formal petition signed by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. You can find that petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/planetprotest/


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