Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Discovery of Pluto

Lowell Observatory is the place where the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930.  Percival Lowell, built the observatory, first to study the planet Mars, then he began a search for "Planet X" in 1905.  In 1929 Clyde Tombaugh, a farm boy and an amateur astronomer and telescope maker from Kansas was hired by Lowell Observatory to continue the search. He used this 13" astrograph, which is a telescope used for taking photographs.  He used 14" x17" glass plates and made hour-long exposures of different parts of the sky.  Then several days later he would photograph the same areas, and compare the plates.  If an object moved on the plates between the two exposures, when he viewed the plates, the object would appear to jump.  Within a year, he had found the object which was then named "Pluto."  He died at age 90 in 1997, and a small portion of his ashes was placed aboard the New Horizons spacecraft, which went to Pluto, now no longer considered a planet.

This is the back of the astrograph, showing the aluminum plate holder on the back of the telescope.


Dean said...

Hi Ken-
I thought I saw Clyde at Stellafane in 1988 the time I attended. Did he return in '90 or am I mis-remembering? -Dean

Anonymous said...

I still feel sorry for Pluto, having its status taken away just because of some technicalities. Can we at least refer to it as a dwarf planet? There are still plenty of people who would name it as their favorite in our Solar System.

Ken Spencer said...

Dean: Oh man, you are so right! He did appear in 1988 - one year BEFORE my first Stellafane, in 1989! Yikes! My brain playing tricks with me... I will edit the post... Having worked for a newSpaper all my life, accuracy does matter! THANKS.