Saturday, February 16, 2013
¡Viva Pluto! Get ready for Plutopalooza
By S. Derrickson Moore email@example.com LAS CRUCES — Let’s get busy. It’s almost time for Plutopalooza and we have only about 17 months to get this fiesta off the ground, to coin an appropriately cosmic phrase. On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons probe, launched on Jan. 19, 2006, with Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes on board, will arrive at Pluto. Plutopalooza, which I first proposed in 2010, came to mind when I covered Clyde Tombaugh Day Feb. 9 at the Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science, where they’re hoping to make the day an annual “signature event” of the new museum. It was a fun day, a great start and clear evidence that the spirit of Plutopalooza is still strong in our young ones (who built telescopes, in honor of Clyde, who did the same as a sky-watching Midwestern farm boy) and designed Pluto flags. I also met Clyde’s family members, friends and colleagues, along with astronomy buffs and fans of the legendary space pioneer and his work, which included, as we all know, the discovery of the planet Pluto on Feb. 18, 1930, “Clyde was my first boss, at my first job as an engineer at White Sands,” said Austin L. Vick, with the White Sands Historical Foundation. Vick’s group sounds like one of many organizations we’d like to involve in Plutopalooza, along with the Las Cruces Museum of Nature & Science, the NMSU Astronomy Department, the New Mexico Museum of Space History, the Space Mural Museum, and all the regional institutions named for Clyde, including an art gallery, elementary school and planetarium. If there are any doubters out there, I’d like to ask them how often the ashes of a man who discovered a planet in our solar system have actually traveled to that planet? Never! And since Clyde spent most of his life and raised his family here, we’re the logical place for the fiesta. It’s time to start brainstorming. We’ll need a site for a big screen viewing party to watch the first close images the probe sends back. We’ll need experts and astronomy’s big names to talk about what it all means. We’ll need technical advisors. I’d like to nominate Chas Miller, the NMSU astronomy graduate student who offered a presentation on the New Horizons mission at Tombaugh Day. He talked about Pluto’s five moons: Nix, Hydra, Charon, P4 and P5. I think we should have an international competition to rechristen P4 and P5, to help draw attention to Plutopalooza. I feel there should also be some effort to petition for reconsideration of Pluto’s status by those International Astronomical Union members who, at their still-controversial Aug. 24, 2006, meeting, defined the term "planet" for the first time, a definition which excluded Pluto and added it as a member of the new “dwarf planet" category. The logical scientist to spearhead this corrective course should be Neil deGrasse Tyson, who once championed Pluto’s demotion, but was a changed man after he profiled Clyde and interviewed members of the Tombaugh family & famous supporters of Pluto’s planetary status for “The Pluto Files,” a 2010 NOVA show on PBS. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart summed up our love for the little planet: “We don't care what it really is. We just want to call it Pluto,” Stewart said. How about Stewart as Grand Marshal of the Plutopalooza parade? The possibilities are exciting. Pluto art exhibitions. Historical and scientific symposiums. A special event at Spaceport. A Pluto symphony. Pluto ballets and folklorico dances. Pluto operas and rock festivals. Pluto piñatas. Pluto green chile enchiladas. Pluto-inspired poetry and dramas. Pluto book talks by Tombaugh biographers. You get the idea, and I’ll bet many of you have some even better ideas. Send them to me, and let’s get this planetary ball rolling. ¡Viva Plutopalooza! S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.