|The Planet Quiz Show|
When Clyde W. Tombaugh made his amazing discovery of Pluto in 1930, little did he expect that one day he would get the opportunity to fly past this tiny, dwarf planet. In fact, he is on his way right now. Tombaugh, an amateur astronomer born in Streator, Illinois was hired by the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona to conduct a search for a Planet-X. Tombaugh’s superb drawings of Jupiter and Mars made with his 9-inch, homebuilt reflecting telescope from his parent’s wheat farm in western Kansas convinced Lowell Director, V. M. Slipher, to hire Tombaugh as the observer for the search. By giving a qualified amateur a chance, Slipher believed that Tombaugh would stick with the difficult and tedious observing routine that the search required. It was a wise decision. Tombaugh not only took over the project, but he greatly enhanced the observing and analysis techniques which led to a speedy identification of his trans-Neptunian world. The moment of discovery occurred on February 18, 1930 “within about two minutes of four p.m.” in Tombaugh’s own words. Currently, NASA’s New Horizons is headed towards Pluto after a successful launch in 2006. Several years before his death in 1997, NASA asked Tombaugh, as a courtesy, for his permission to send a probe to icy Pluto. Of course, he said, “Yes!” New Horizons was launched on January 19, 2006 and received a gravity assist from Jupiter in February 2007 to slingshot it to Pluto. See the photo below. The small spacecraft is headed for a July 2015 rendezvous. All the while, a small compartment containing 70 grams of Clyde W. Tombaugh’s cremated remains will be making the journey back home to Pluto where Tombaugh’s legacy began three quarters of a century ago. After Pluto, New Horizons will continue outbound to investigate other more distant objects in the Kuiper Belt region of the solar system.
|New Horizons took this image of the icy moon Europa rising above Jupiter’s cloud tops at 6:48 a.m. on February 28, 2007, six hours after the spacecraft’s closest approach to Jupiter. The spacecraft was 1.4 million miles from Jupiter and 1.8 million miles from Europa when the picture was taken. Europa's diameter is 1,939 miles. South is at the top. Photo by NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute...|