Public Star Night 17 April – Dr John Spencer – NASA’s New Horizons Mission to Pluto and beyond

Our speaker for this evening will be Dr John Spencer from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder and the title of his talk will be “NASA’s New Horizons Mission to Pluto and beyond”.

On July 14th 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will make the first-ever encounter with the dwarf planet Pluto, its giant moon Charon, and retinue of four smaller satellites.  The Pluto system is unlike any place previously explored, and promises spectacular discoveries.  Dr. Spencer will discuss the many remarkable things that we already know about the Pluto system, the long journey of New Horizons from conception to the launch pad and to Pluto and beyond, and how we will use the spacecraft to revolutionize our understanding of Pluto and its surroundings.

John Spencer is an Institute Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and a member of the New Horizons science team, where his roles include ensuring safe passage of the spacecraft through the Pluto system, and finding additional worlds beyond Pluto for New Horizons to explore.  A native of England, he obtained his PhD in Planetary Sciences from the University of Arizona in 1987, and has since worked at the University of Hawaii and at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona (where Pluto was discovered) before joining Southwest Research Institute in 2004.  He studies the moons and other small bodies of the outer solar system using ground-based telescopes, the Hubble Space Telescope, and close-up spacecraft observations.  He was a science team member on the Galileo Jupiter orbiter and continues to work on the science team of the Cassini Saturn orbiter.  Among other work, he was involved in the discovery of current activity on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, solving the mystery of the black-and-white appearance of Saturn’s moon Iapetus, and the discovery of oxygen on the surfaces of Jupiter’s icy moons.

Weather permitting after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through our large telescopes at various celestial objects. Public star nights at LTO are held the third Friday of each month (except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance). No reservations are necessary for these nights. Just come and join us for the talk and some observing afterwards.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793

Posted in LTO News

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