ONLINE EXTRA: For a link to the latest information on the New Horizons Pluto probe, go to http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/
To see some of the latest pictures of Pluto, go to www. lcsun-news.com and click on the Las Cruces Style column column.
Watch: “The Pluto Files” on science series NOVA
What: Documentary on Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s life journey
When: 7 p.m. MST Tuesday on KRWG, Comcast Cable 2
View the entire program online beginning Wednesday March 3 at www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pluto/
By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Ah, Pluto. Full-fledged or dwarf, it’s the planet we love, and we aren’t alone.
We also love its discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh. And we have company there, too, I learned when I did a story about the upcoming show on the beloved little heavenly body and the equally beloved farmboy-turned-astronomer who discovered it.
“The Pluto Files,” will air on NOVA, the PBS science series, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, locally on KRWG. It’s hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was one of the ringleaders in the effort to demote Pluto to dwarf planet status.
Tyson was naturally a little wary of the reception when he came to film the show in Las Cruces and met Tombaugh’s widow Patricia and many of the Tombaugh clan, including Clyde’s son Alden and daughter Annette.
Tyson seemed surprised that they gave him a warm welcome, fed him and shared stories.
“That has got to be the friendliest family I have ever spent time with in my life. I learned how friendly people can be, even in times of intellectual conflict.”
It was clearly a fun experience for the Tombaugh clan, too.
“My grandson, Kyle Clifford, plays Clyde for the re-enactment of Pluto's discovery at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.,” said Annette, who adds that Kyle is “similar in many ways” to her dad, who was 24 when he discovered Pluto.
“I'm 23 now and I was 22 back in September when they filmed the part of the show that I'm in,” Kyle said in an e-mail from his current home in Silver Spring, Md.
“It was a great experience to get to portray my great-grandfather in the show. I learned a lot that I didn't know before about the processes involved in the discovery of Pluto, and how difficult and tedious some of the work was. The people putting the show together were very nice and great to work with. The staff at the Lowell observatory were also extremely nice and welcoming. They invited me back to the observatory after we were finished filming and I got to look through several of the telescopes they have there,” Kyle said.
While we’re at it, let’s update our own Pluto files. Many of you will remember that Clyde’s ashes are on the New Horizons probe, which was launched in 2006.
“The probe will arrive at Pluto on July 14, 2015. Mom (Patricia) is determined to stay around for the occasion. She'll be 103 when the probe arrives at Pluto,” said Annette, who invites us all to keep track of the epic journey at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu
I also heard from Steve Hussman, department head for Archives and Special Collections at NMSU Library.
“Clyde Tombaugh’s papers are housed in the New Mexico State University Archives and Special Collections Department and offer a tremendous resource for research and interest both on the subjects of astronomy and Pluto, as well as a number of other subjects,” Hussman said.
Look online at http://archives.nmsu.edu/exhibits/tombaugh_website/index.htm
“The collection of papers contains some 200 linear feet of materials, including over 1,000 photographic images, oral histories and professional papers highlighting Clyde’s life and extensive professional accomplishments,” Hussman said.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org