*Nancy Currie-Gregg is unable to make the Night of Discovery appearance. Taking her place will be paleontologist and wilderness guide, Christa Sadler.*
Flagstaff, AZ. – February 18 marks the 92nd anniversary of Pluto’s discovery in northern Arizona. To celebrate, Lowell Observatory is partnering with other Flagstaff organizations in hosting the 3rd Annual I Heart Pluto Festival. This celebration runs from February 12-21 and features both in-person and virtual activities.
Highlight events include the flagship “Night of Discovery” celebration on February 18 at the Orpheum Theater, nightly virtual presentations by scientists from around the world, daily science demonstrations and Pluto-themed tours at Lowell Observatory, a space-themed art exhibit at Lowell Observatory by the International Association of Astronomical Artists, and Mother Road Brewing Company’s limited release of “Lowell Lager.”
The I Heart Pluto Festival kicks off on February 12 with an art exhibit reception at Lowell Observatory. This features Pluto-themed art from members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists. In addition to the reception, guests may enjoy interactive theater performances by Peppercorn Games, nighttime portraits by Southwest Conservation Adventures, face painting, and BBQ provided by Findlay Toyota Flagstaff. Mother Road Brewing Company will also be on hand to unveil its Lowell Lager.
A limited VIP experience is also available. This includes access to all I Heart Pluto events, a five-hour bus/walking tour that includes stops at Lowell Observatory’s Anderson Mesa research site and downtown Flagstaff, and an evening telescope viewing session through the observatory’s 24-inch Dyer Telescope. Space is limited. For more information and to purchase tickets to the VIP Experience, see https://iheartpluto.org/schedule/.
All I Heart Pluto activities happening at Lowell Observatory are covered under the regular price of admission. Tickets for the February 18 Night of Discovery at the Orpheum Theater are available at the door or at the Orpheum’s event page.
A complete schedule of I Heart Pluto events is available at https://iheartpluto.org/schedule/.
February 18 Night of Discovery at the Orpheum Theater
This event features a panel discussion about our human fascination with exploration and the inspiration behind scientific discovery. Guests may also mingle with world-renowned scientists, explore a space art exhibit, try axe throwing with the FlagTagAZ team, participate in a book signing by panelists, and try a pint of Lowell Lager (food and other drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, will also be available for purchase). This event runs from 5-9pm. More information is available at https://iheartpluto.org/schedule/.
The Night of Discovery panelists include:
- Dr. Donald Johanson, discoverer of the fossil hominid known as Lucy
- Dr. Alan Stern (joining virtually), Principal Investigator of the New Horizons Mission to Pluto and beyond
- Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg, four-time astronaut
- Dr. Cathy Olkin, Deputy Principal Investigator of the Lucy mission to study asteroids
- Alden Tombaugh, son of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh
The Arizona Office of Tourism provided major funding through a Visit Arizona Initiative grant. Small businesses throughout Flagstaff are also joining in on the celebration. The festival’s lead sponsor, The Runway, has created a frozen “Galaxy’s Edge Pluto Cocktail” that will be served throughout the month of February. Mother Rood Brewery’s Lowell Lager will be available at its tap room. Historic Brewing is serving a custom “Not a Real Cocktail (Definitely a Cocktail)” at its downtown location. Karma Sushi is bringing back its annual “Pluto Roll” as a specialty menu item, and other businesses such as FlagTag AZ, Findlay Toyota, Fratelli Pizza, and the Northern Arizona DX Association are offering special “I Heart Pluto” promotions and activities.
I Heart Pluto Festival Background
A northern Arizona Pluto celebration is appropriate: Flagstaff is often called the “Home of Pluto” because nearly every major research effort surrounding this icy world has ties to northern Arizona—Percival Lowell’s early searches for a ninth planet; Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto on February 18, 1930; Jim Christy’s detection of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, in 1978; the first observation of Pluto’s atmosphere in 1988; early maps of Pluto’s surface a decade later; the New Horizons flyby of the Pluto system in 2015, and more.
About Lowell Observatory
Lowell Observatory is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) research institution, founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell atop Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. The observatory has been the site of many important discoveries, including the first detection of large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1912-1914 (a result that led ultimately to the realization that the universe is expanding), and the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Today, the observatory’s 14 tenured astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. Lowell Observatory currently operates multiple research instruments at its Anderson Mesa station, east of Flagstaff, and the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope near Happy Jack, Arizona. Prior to the pandemic, the observatory also welcomed more than 100,000 guests per year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a variety of educational experiences, including historical tours, science presentations, and telescope viewing.
Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory