Clyde Tombaugh was a Kansas farm boy in the 1920s who couldn’t afford college so he just did what he could on the farm in his spare time: Built his own telescopes and took meticulous notes about his night-sky observations. He sent his notes to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff AZ when he heard they were hiring and his notes got him a job. The Lowell Observatory is a private institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell, son of wealthy Massachusetts industrialists and educators. Lowell was convinced another planet beyond Neptune influenced its orbit and Tombaugh, using the 24-inch Clark refracting telescope (pictured above) found Pluto in 1930. It turned out that Lowell was wrong about Pluto’s influence on Neptune. Eventually Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in Kuiper belt. But the Clark telescope is still a remarkable instrument, still functional and available for viewing the night sky by the likes of you and me. Lowell invites folks up to the observatory on clear nights to get a closeup view of stars, nebula, galaxies. At our visit there this month, Craig and I saw the Orion Nebula using the 126-year-old Clark telescope. We also got introduced to the stunning Cigar Galaxy. Exciting research continues at Lowell. This is why we travel.
The farm boy who discovered Pluto
26 Tuesday Apr 2022
Posted learning, outdoors, Randomin