By JIM MISUNAS
BURDETT — Clyde Tombaugh, Burdett’s most famous citizen, discovered Pluto in 1930.
Next week, his hometown will celebrate when NASA’s New Horizons probe carries Tombaugh’s ashes close to Pluto early July 14.
Burdett’s Senior Center will celebrate the occasion with a free covered-dish luncheon at noon Monday, July 13. After lunch, a 60-minute video about Tombaugh’s historical marker being placed in Burdett will be aired.
The video features an interview by Burdett’s Lee Musil visiting with Clyde Tombaugh. The Burdett Lions Club assisted with the historical marker.
Two of Tombaugh’s relatives, nephew Glenn Tombaugh and niece Ruth Martinez, both of Wichita, will attend the July 13 ceremony. Pawnee Heights graduates Glenn and Ruth are children of Charles Tombaugh, Clyde’s brother.
“Somebody at the Senior Center mentioned the space probe and we thought we’d get together and commemorate the event locally,” said Burdett’s Don Cloutman. “We thought it would be good for our community.”
The son of former resident Karen Schadel owned a copy of the 60-minute VHS tape, which was changed over to a DVD tape.
One of Mr. Tombaugh final requests was that his ashes be flown into space. A small portion of his ashes were placed aboard the New Horizons spacecraft.
The container includes the inscription — “Here in are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system’s third zone. Adelle and Muron’s boy; Patricia’s husband; Annette and Alden’s father; astronomer, teacher, punster, and friend, Clyde W. Tombaugh (1906–1997)”
Clyde Tombaugh spotted the tiny gleaming object as a tiny dot on the edge of our solar system in 1930.
Since its discovery by Mr. Tombaugh until 2006, Pluto was considered to be the ninth planet in the solar system.
However, after the discovery of several other Pluto-sized objects in the far reaches of the solar system, astronomers agreed to downgrade its status.
They eventually settled on describing Pluto, and other objects, like it as dwarf planets. Its scientific designation is now asteroid No. 134340.
Tombaugh’s family moved to Burdett in 1922. Starting in 1926, he built several telescopes with lenses and mirrors. He sent drawings of Jupiter and Mars to the Lowell Observatory, where he worked from 1929 to 1945.
Following his discovery of Pluto, Tombaugh earned his master’s degree in astronomy from the University of Kansas. He worked at White Sands Missile Range in the early 1950s, and taught astronomy at New Mexico State University from 1955 until 1973. Tombaugh died Jan. 17, 1997, in Las Cruces, N.M, at age 90.
New Horizons launched on Jan. 19, 2006. It passed by Jupiter in February 2007, and will move near Pluto next week. Sending a spacecraft on this long journey will help us answer basic questions about the surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres on these bodies.
New Horizona has spent nine years travelling 3.67 billion miles towards Pluto. The mission will be mankind’s closest encounter with Pluto. Pluto was officially downgraded as a planet by astronomers in 2006. It is now known as a dwarf planet along with several similar rocky worlds.
However, at more than 3.67 billion miles from the Sun, it is an inhospitable place.
Temperatures on the surface plummet to -387 degrees F (-233 degrees C), cold enough for nitrogen and methane to freeze, and there is little atmosphere.
The name Pluto was suggested by Venetia Burney, then an 11-year-old English schoolgirl. Pluto is the name of the Roman god of the underworld, who was able to render himself invisible. Because astronomer Percival Lowell’s initials PL formed the first two letters, the name Pluto was adopted May 1, 1930.
• Pluto is the largest and brightest known member of the Kuiper Belt — the solar system’s third zone — the vast region of ancient, icy, rocky bodies stretching 2 billion miles beyond Neptune’s orbit.
• Pluto has five known moons — Charon (1978); Nix and Hydra (2005); Styx (2011); and Kerberos (2012).
• Pluto’s surface is one of the coldest places in the solar system at an estimated -387 F (minus 233 degrees C).
• Pluto’s low gravity, which is 6 percent that of Earth’s, causes this atmosphere to extend much higher in altitude than Earth’s.
• Pluto’s orbit is highly eccentric, or far from circular, which means its distance from the sun can vary.
• The surface is thought to be composed of frozen water and rock.
• Chemicals such as nitrogen and methane are believed to be frozen under an icy surface.
• Pluto is so far away that it appears as a pinprick in the sky.
• The Hubble Space Telescope reveals a fuzzy picture of a molasses colored world.
• The sun changes frozen nitrogen and methane to turn into gas, giving Pluto a thin and temporary atmosphere.
• Pluto has grown redder over time, perhaps due to seasonal changes.