Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility I Heart Pluto Festival 2022 Schedule - Lowell Observatory

I Heart Pluto Festival 2022 Schedule


Come show your love for our frosty ninth planet in cold and snowy Flagstaff, Arizona, where it was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh 90 years ago on February 18, 1930. Check out the festival schedule below, and for complete I Heart Pluto Festival program details, including how to join the events, see

February 12 – 21, Daily (Excluding Tuesdays)

Pluto Tour, at the top of every hour from 10am – 4pm MST

At Lowell Observatory

This hour-long tour visits historic telescope piers, the Lawrence Lowell (Pluto Discovery) Telescope, the apartment Clyde Tombaugh lived in when he discovered Pluto, and Pluto-related artifacts in the Rotunda Museum.

*Space is limited and admission to these tours is on a first-come, first-served basis.

February 12

Art Show and Reception, 4pm – 6pm MST

An exhibition at Lowell Observatory featuring Pluto themed art from members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists.

The International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA), is a non-profit organization whose members implement and participate in astronomical and space art projects, promote education about space art and foster international cooperation in artistic work inspired by the exploration of the Universe.

In addition to the Art Reception, attendees will enjoy:

Family Science Fun, 7 – 9pm MST

Glow Wall science activity at Lowell Observatory

Experiment with light and wavelength in this interactive activity with Lowell Public Program Educators.

World Science Series, 7 – 8pm MST [VIRTUAL]

Imagining Pluto Before the Flyby: The Role of Space Art in Planetary Exploration, with Dr. Dan Durda, hosted by Dr. Amanda Bosh

Watch Live on Lowell Observatory’s YouTube Channel

Space art has played an important and inspiring role in planetary exploration since the dawn of the space age and it was no different leading up to the New Horizons flyby of Pluto in 2015. Ever since its discovery in 1930 artists helped us imagine what this icy world might look like, drawing from the best science at the time. How is that art done and how well did we do compared to the world we now know so well?

February 13

Family Science Fun, 5 – 7pm MST

Gravity science activity at Lowell Observatory

Experiment with escape velocity using a gravity table, witness the effect the atmosphere has on the rate at which objects fall.

World Science Series, 7 – 8pm MST

The Moon, Mars and Beyond, with Dr. Roedolph Opperman, hosted by Dr. Amanda Bosh

Watch Live on Lowell Observatory’s YouTube Channel

This talk shares some interesting facts about interplanetary exploration, including the latest robotic Mars missions, humans living in space and on other planetary bodies, and exciting prospects of the emerging commercial space age. Dive into what it takes to send a robotic explorer and its helicopter companion 300 million miles and land it on the red planet. Hear about our greatest obstacles to overcome in order to be a truly interplanetary species and relive the tense “7 minutes of terror” during entry, descent and landing on Mars. Learn about the fascinating changes that your body undergoes in the absence of gravity and how NASA endeavors to return humankind to the Moon and on to Mars (and possibly Pluto?) and beyond.

February 14

Valentines Eve Portraits on Mars Hill, 7 – 9pm MST

Available during General Admission: Nighttime portraits by local astrophotographer Evan Thibodeau with Southwest Conservation Adventures! Get your portrait taken with the beautiful observatory backdrop with a professional night-sky photographer — $20 per couple or $15 per individual, with free digital downloads and an option to purchase physical prints through the photographer.

Family Science Fun, 6:30 – 7pm MST

Liquid Nitrogen Demonstration science activity at Lowell Observatory

We freeze flowers, play around with pressure, and simulate a cryo volcano in this demonstration in an attempt to imagine what standing on Pluto might be like.

Worlds Revealed Science Series, 7 – 8pm MST [VIRTUAL]

Undaunted Exploration: An Astronomer’s Journey Through the Solar System, with Dr. Richard Binzel, hosted by Dr. Amanda Bosh

Watch Live on Lowell Observatory’s YouTube Channel

Robotic spacecraft probing our solar system represent a capstone of human exploration. That capstone resides on a foundation built by astronomical observations revealing scientific questions answerable only by on site investigation. The path from astronomical observations, defining science questions, and achieving mission success is an arduous one. Join MIT Professor Richard Binzel on a personal and scientific tale of persistence, persistence, persistence in going from a backyard astronomer to science team member on four NASA solar system exploration missions.

February 15

Family Science Fun, 6:30 – 7pm MST

Glowstick Photo Booth at Lowell Observatory

Paint with light in this interactive activity to gain a better understanding of long exposure photography and why it is so useful in astronomy.

Worlds Revealed Science Series, 7 – 8pm MST [VIRTUAL]

Astronomical Time-lapse Imagine: From Seconds to Centuries, with Tom Polakis, hosted by Dr. Amanda Bosh

Watch Live on Lowell Observatory’s YouTube Channel

Nothing in the universe is static. Whether the bodies are moving or evolving, astronomical events play out in periods ranging from seconds to many centuries. This presentation clearly shows these changes, with descriptions of what to look for.and why it is of interest.  Most of the images were taken with amateur equipment at various sites in Arizona.

February 16

Family Science Fun, 4 – 7pm MST

Find Pluto at Lowell Observatory

A family activity in which guests construct a small flipbook to ‘find Pluto’, the little moving dot amongst them. Learn why we used glass plates and why the blink comparator was so important.

Worlds Revealed Science Series, 7 – 8pm MST

History Captured on Glass: The Pluto Discovery Plates, with Brian Skiff, Dr. Steven Levine, and Lauren Amundson, hosted by Amanda Bosh

Lowell Observatory has a treasure trove of astronomical images on glass photographic plates from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. The most famous of these is the pair of plates on which Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930! Walk with us (virtually) through the archive, view the discovery plates, and think about what else might be hidden in these old records of the sky, waiting to be discovered! A new program to scan these plates is underway, making the data accessible to a new generation of scientists.

February 17

Family Science Fun, 5 – 7pm MST

Rover Activity at Lowell Observatory

Challenge yourself to pilot a rover on Mars in this educational game. Every minute of delay between Mars and Earth is represented as one second to make things a little easier on you- but not too easy.

Worlds Revealed Science Series, 7 – 8pm MST [VIRTUAL]

Searching for Signs of Past Life on Mars, with Dr. Kelsey Moore, hosted by Dr. Amanda Bosh

Watch Live on Lowell Observatory’s YouTube Channel

On February 18th, 2020, the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars. One of the main goals of this mission is to search for evidence of past life on Mars. Jezero crater, the landing site of the rover, was selected as an exciting astrobiological target because it is the site of an ancient river delta and lake that may once have been habitable. To determine if Mars was once inhabited, scientists will search for biosignatures, traces of life that are preserved in the rock record. On Earth, scientists study ancient biosignatures to understand what the ancient biosphere looked like and how it interacted with the planet. Dr. Moore’s research investigates ancient biosignatures from Earth with the goal of providing a framework that scientists may use to identify and interpret similar biosignatures in Jezero crater if they are present.

Here, Dr. Moore will describe the astrobiological goals of the mission, what scientists know about Jezero crater and its potential past habitability, and the instruments that they will use to search for ancient biosignatures. She will present new insights into biosignature preservation on the ancient Earth and what they can tell scientists about how the biosphere and geosphere interacted on the early Earth. She will show how scientists can use instruments onboard the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover to search for similar biosignatures in Jezero crater. If such biosignatures exist, the data that scientists collect during the Mars 2020 mission will also help them to interpret how ancient microorganisms may have interacted with the Martian environment in the past.

February 18

A Night of Discovery, 5 – 8pm MST

Presented by Lowell Observatory at the Orpheum Theater

A celebration to commemorate the anniversary of Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of the icy world Pluto on February 18, 1930. Lowell Historian Kevin Schindler will host the evening’s events. Mingle with world-renowned scientists, explore a space art exhibit, throw an axe, enjoy some BBQ, and try a pint of special-edition Lowell Observatory Lager.

  • Dr. Donald Johanson, discoverer of the fossil hominid Lucy
  • Dr. Alan Stern (joining virtually), Principal Investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto and beyond
  • Christa Sadler, author, educator, and paleontologist
  • Dr. Cathy Olkin, Deputy Principal Investigator of the Lucy mission to study asteroids
  • Alden Tombaugh, son of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh
  • Dr. Jeffrey Hall, Lowell Observatory Director, will moderate the discussion

February 19

VIP Experience Tour, 1 – 9pm MST

This tour includes stops at the Lowell Observatory’s Anderson Mesa research site, Putnam Collection Center archives and plate vault at Lowell Observatory, downtown Flagstaff to retrace Clyde Tombaugh’s day of discovering Pluto, The Runway Coffee House and Nightclub for a special Pluto-themed refreshment. Capping off the evening will be telescope viewing through Lowell’s new 24-inch Dyer Telescope. Tickets also include access to all of the on-campus events at Lowell Observatory and the Night of Discovery event at the Orpheum.

Family Science Fun, 5 – 8 pm MST

Exoplanet Detection Demonstration at Lowell Observatory with Astronomer Dr. Joe Llama

Learn the 3 major methods of planetary detection through hands-on demonstrations.

Worlds Revealed Science Series, 7 – 8pm MST

Searching for Planets Around Other Stars, with Dr. Julien de Wit, hosted by Dr. Amanda Bosh

Watch Live on Lowell Observatory’s YouTube Channel

The night sky has guided humanity’s development since the dawn of time. As our societies and technologies evolved, so did our challenges. Could space further nurture our growth via profound experiences such as finding life elsewhere? During this talk, Dr. de Wit will reflect on this question while introducing the fundamentals of exoplanetary sciences at the dawn of the James Webb Space Telescope era.

February 20

Family Science Fun, 5 – 8pm MST

Earth or Afar? Science Activity at Lowell Observatory

Try to spot the differences in geological patterns to determine if a river-like feature is on Earth, or a little farther away.

Worlds Revealed Science Series, 7 – 8pm MST

The Rivers and Seas of Titan, with Dr. Taylor Perron, hosted by Dr. Amanda Bosh

Watch Live on Lowell Observatory’s YouTube Channel

Saturn’s moon Titan is the second known Solar system world with active rivers and seas. Titan’s deceptively Earth-like landscape is the product of a methane cycle akin to Earth’s water cycle, but there are important differences between Earth and Titan that offer lessons about planetary climate. I will illustrate this through a tour of Titan’s landforms, including methane rivers eroding mountains of ice, the search for waves on Titan’s seas, and the scarceness of river deltas.

February 21

Family Science Fun, 5 – 8pm MST

Spectroscopy at Lowell Observatory

Learn how scientists use spectroscopy to learn more about stars and planets.

Worlds Revealed Science Series, 7 – 8pm MST

Lesson Learned from Observing Earth’s Cryosphere from Satellites, with Dr. Brent Minchew, hosted by Dr. Amanda Bosh

Watch Live on Lowell Observatory’s YouTube Channel

Over the past few decades, the quality and quantity of satellite observations of Earth have improved dramatically. Nowhere is this more true than in the polar regions. Over the past 20 years, a fleet of satellites operated by many different countries have provided unprecedented insight into the changes underway in the Arctic and Antarctic. In this talk, we will discuss some of the key observations and insights that inform our understanding of the response of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets to climate change and our projections of future sea-level rise.