Alachua Astronomy Club Public Meeting

  • 11 Nov 2014
  • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida Cultural Plaza, 3215 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611-2710
Join us for an exciting and interesting evening at the Florida Museum of Natural History!

7:00 - 7:30 General Meeting & Announcements
7:30 - 7:45 Refreshments
7:45 - Invited Speaker

Speaker: Dr. Howard L. Cohen, Alachua Astronomy Club (Emeritus Associate Professor of Astronomy, University of Florida)

Title: Resurrecting the Planet that Never Was (Part 1)

Synopsis: The discovery of Planet X was controversial, its properties a puzzle, its place among the planets debated and its status demoted. Yet this remote object has now become the focus of an historic mission to explore a new class of objects in a far zone of the solar system. The New Horizons mission to "Planet X" (a.k.a. Pluto) and the Kuiper Belt is the first to visit a new planet in more than 30 years, making Pluto the last "planet" in our solar system to be visited by spacecraft. Now after a long eight-year cruise since its launch in January 2006, the New Horizons Spacecraft is deep in interplanetary space expecting to encounter Pluto and its satellites on its expected flyby in July of next year. Therefore, this is the time to recap what is known about this so-called "dwarf planet" before New Horizons provides the first detailed glimpse of the "planet that never was."

This presentation will review the controversial discovery of "Planet X" including a rare glimpse of Pluto's discovery plate and its protective envelope with the handwritten words of its discover, Clyde Tombaugh. Learn what role a clever 11-year-old girl played in the discovery. Not versed in celestial mechanics? No problem. Simple diagrams will help everyone understand its remarkable orbit. Then find out why early perceptions of this new world placed it among the major planets. Finally, discover how new observations and ideas eventually showed this perplexing object is not only a seemingly small rock-ice world but also a "double planet" attended by a surprising retinue of satellites. What will New Horizons reveal when it reaches Planet X before heading into even deeper space? Next July will tell.

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