Public Star Night 19 April 2019 – Dr John Spencer – “The Furthest Flyby”.

Our speaker for this evening will be Dr John Spencer from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder and the title of his talk will be “The Furthest Flyby: New Horizons Visits Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69”.

On January 1st, 2019, deep in the Kuiper Belt a billion miles beyond Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past the small object 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule, making MU69 the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft.  New Horizons revealed MU69 to be a primordial contact binary, unlike any object ever seen before, providing a window on the earliest stages of planetary formation.  I will describe the discovery of MU69, the planning of the flyby, and what has been learned from the data returned so far.

John Spencer is an Institute Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO, and is a Deputy Project Scientist on the New Horizons mission. 

He led the search that resulted in the discovery of MU69, and also led the planning of New Horizon’s observations during the encounter.  He also works on NASA’s Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids, and the NASA Europa Clipper mission.

Weather permitting after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through our large telescope at various celestial objects. Public star nights are held the third Friday of each month, except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at

Posted in LTO News