Friday, July 10, 2015

Vacationitis and armchair travels to cool Pluto




July 5  VACATIONITIS
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m suffering from a major case of vacationitis.
For me, it’s an ailment that’s much more severe than spring fever, and it’s always worst in June and July.
By this stage of my life, I figured that it might eventually move back or forward a few months, due to differences in climate and the fact that school gets out earlier and starts earlier here than it did in my Michigan youth.
But after two-thirds of my life spent in other climes, my soul still seems to be on Midwestern vacay time.
I know it makes sense to hold out for fall, arguably the most beautiful time here, if I want to follow my recent vacation patterns and focus on free-range adventures around the Southwest.
And it’s always nice to have a little break in early spring and save a few days for year-end holidays with friends.
My soul and my body and my mind do not care about such practical considerations.
My body remembers a childhood of summers on Lake Michigan, leisurely days on pine-rimmed, rustic spring-fed lakes and wild, icy rivers. July was the time for long canoe trips and sunset sails and entire days spent in a damp bathing suit, a season of 24-7 bare feet and toes that always seemed to have sand between them.
When I attempt to convince myself that lunch-hour laps in a chlorinated pools are just as good, I sometimes succeed.
But not during the summer.
Luckily, until vacation time arrives, I have a cool interim escape plan.
Very cool. I’m talking subzero, WAY subzero, Plutonian cool.
Whatever our hot and occasionally humid summer is doing, I know it’s always reliably cold on our favorite dwarf planet.
How cold is it on Pluto? Temperatures range  from -387 to -369 Fahrenheit (-233 to -223 Celsius), according to Cal Tech’s website coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu.
As Plutopalooza instigator, I’ve felt an obligation to keep tabs on the New Horizons Probe, which was launched in 2006 with the ashes of Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, on board.
The probe will make its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, but in the meantime, supercool and fascinating information is continuously on tap to surprise and delight you, especially if you have a great fondness for space stuff and for Clyde and his family. Many of us have been lucky enough to be their friends and neighbors here for many years,
That connection makes it all more exciting, and a little vacationitis escapism helps, along with a good imagination. So far, there have been a lot of wobbly dots out there as the New Horizons travels billions of miles from lanchpad Earth.
Lately, we’ve been getting to the good stuff, like the news of a mysterious “Dark Pole” on Charon, Pluto’s biggest moon.
You can follow along http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/
And in the meantime, we’re in the midst of two months of Plutopalooza celebrations and special programs at city museums, organized by the Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science, including lectures, special events and an exhibit “Beyond Pluto: The Clyde Tombaugh Story.” Visit city museums for a complete schedule of events and consider taking the family for two Saturday events at the Branigan Cultural Center: a Family Science Saturday program on rockets at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m workshop (this one’s for ages 15 and up) investigating the interior of a telescope.
Come back to this space next Sunday and we’ll tell you more about Clyde and his career and family, the big upcoming fly-by, artists who are commemorating Pluto, planetary exploration and the cosmos, the big Plutopalooza, over-21 Pluto Fly-by Night Under the Stars Fiesta from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. July 25 downtown and more ways you can join in local celebrations of this unique event.
It’s a cool, one-of-a-kind happening, the likes of which, like Clyde, we’ll never see again.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout or call 575-541-5450.

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