ERIE, Pa. -- Since its discovery in 1930, the planet Pluto has gone unseen to the human eye, but that will change come July. That’s when the New Horizons spacecraft will reach the planet after a nine-and-a-half year journey.
For the first time in history, the public will have unprecedented access to the planet. This will be the topic of the next Open House Night in Astronomy at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, on Thursday, April 23.
The presentation, “Finally, a Close-up of Pluto,” will be held at 7:30 p.m. in 101 Otto Behrend Science Building, part of the college’s School of Science Complex. It is free and open to the public.
“Although Pluto’s diminutive size and extreme distance have motivated scientists to reclassify it as a dwarf planet, public enthusiasm and sympathy for the small icy worldlet have never been greater,” said Open House presenter Darren Williams, professor of physics and astronomy. “During flyby, New Horizons will photograph Pluto and its five moons in unprecedented detail, resolving features as small as skyscrapers on the surface.”
During its visit to Pluto, New Horizons also will take Pluto’s temperature and probe the composition of its ultra-thin atmosphere before heading further into the Kuiper Belt and away from the Sun.
A half-hour show will be played in the Yahn Planetarium before and after Williams’ presentation, the first show at 6:30 p.m. and the second at 8:30 p.m. There will be a special discounted planetarium admission fee of $3.50 per adult and $2.50 for children 12 and under. Anyone who presents a valid Penn State ID will receive free admission.
Open House Nights in Astronomy are an outreach program of the School of Science at Penn State Behrend. These nontechnical presentations are intended for ages 8 and up; for additional information, contact the school at 814-898-6105.