Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility I HEART PLUTO FESTIVAL TO CELEBRATE 90TH ANNIVERSARY OF PLUTO’S DISCOVERY - Lowell Observatory




January 28, 2020

***Contact details appear below***


Flagstaff, AZ. – Lowell Observatory is partnering with other Flagstaff organizations in hosting a two-day I Heart Pluto Festival, set for February 15 and 18 and celebrating the 90th anniversary of the February 18, 1930 discovery of Pluto. Highlights of the event include a keynote presentation by Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of the New Horizons mission that explored Pluto in 2015; a space-themed art exhibit at Lowell Observatory, and Mother Road Brewery’s limited release of “Pluto Porter” beer.

February 15 Events

On February 15, Lowell Observatory will host a variety of public events during its regular operating hours of 10 am – 10 pm. At 10:30, observatory staff and guests will rededicate the Zeiss Blink Comparator—the machine used by Tombaugh to discover Pluto and which just returned to the observatory after a five-year-engagement at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.  At 4 p.m., members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists will be on hand for the opening reception of a space art exhibition. During this reception, Mother Road Brewery will unveil its Pluto Porter, a limited-release, nitrogenated beer created in conjunction with Lowell astronomers.

Other events throughout the day include Pluto Scavenger hunts for the kids, Pluto-themed science experiments, and both English- and Spanish-language tours of Pluto-related facilities.

On the evening of the 15th, programming at Northern Arizona University’s Cline Library Auditorium will begin with the premier performance of the song “Asteroid #134340: Pluto’s Lament” by a brass sextet of the Flagstaff Community Band. Then, several guests will take the stage: Alden Tombaugh (son of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh), Jim Christy (discoverer of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon), Charlene Christy (Jim’s wife and the namesake of Charon), Larry Wasserman (Lowell Observatory astronomer and co-discoverer of Pluto’s atmosphere), Will Grundy (Lowell Observatory planetary scientist and leader of the New Horizons surface composition team), and Lowell Observatory Historian Kevin Schindler.

Capping off the evening will be a keynote presentation by Stern, who will talk about the New Horizons mission’s fabulous discoveries about Pluto and its family of moons. Following this talk, Stern and the other Pluto experts will be on hand for a book signing. Books are priced at their regular retail amount but the rest of the evening’s activities are free. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. and the event running from 7 – 9 p.m.

All of the activities at Lowell are covered under the regular $22 price of admission, which is discounted at $15 for residents of Coconino County. For individuals wanting an even richer Pluto experience, additional options are available. For $45, guests may purchase the Pluto Lover Package (covers cost of admission to Lowell plus special commemorative I Heart Pluto t-shirt and beverage can sleeve).  Then there is the VIP Pluto Experience, which costs $100 per person and includes all the benefits of the Pluto Lover Package plus a behind-the-scenes Pluto tour at Lowell, a three-hour tour of Pluto-related facilities at Northern Arizona University and the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, and more. The VIP Pluto Experience has limited spaces available. See

February 18 Events

Three days later, on the actual anniversary day of Pluto’s discovery on February 18, 1930, Lowell is hosting an evening of entertainment at the Orpheum Theater that includes the opportunity to sample Pluto Porter. The event highlights Tombaugh’s day of discovery, retracing his steps from Lowell to various places downtown (he ate dinner at the Black Cat Café—where Karma Sushi now operates and is offering a commemorative Pluto Roll—and watched a movie at the Orpheum Theater). Lowell Observatory Planetary Scientist Will Grundy and Northern Arizona University Professor Steve Tegler will discuss current Pluto research in Flagstaff and City of Flagstaff officials will be on hand to talk about the importance of Pluto to Flagstaff. The evening culminates with several movie shorts highlighting the spirit of adventure and discovery, which are presented as an encore of the Flagstaff Film Festival. Admission is $7 per person and the event is part of the Downtown Business Alliance’s (DBA) 3rd Tuesday Locals Night.

Sponsors for the I Heart Pluto Festival include the Orpheum Theater, Mother Road Brewing Company, and 93.9 The Mountain.

For details about program times, fees, and more, see the event webpage at


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. The observatory also welcomes 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.


Media Contact

Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory
(928) 607-1387