Colorado To Celebrate The Historic Pluto Encounter

Artist’s concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it passes Pluto and Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, in July 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

Artist’s concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it passes Pluto and Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, in July 2015. Image Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

July 8, 2015 – The United States is about to complete the reconnaissance of the planets in our solar system by exploring the Pluto system with NASA’s New Horizons mission.

The flyby will cap a five-decade-long era of solar system reconnaissance that began with Venus and Mars in the early 1960s, and continued through first looks of Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn in the 1970s and Uranus and Neptune in the 1980s. Meaningfully, the July 14 flyby of Pluto will occur 50 years to the day after humans first explored Mars with NASA’s Mariner 4 on July 14, 1965.

The New Horizons mission is one of the great exploration missions of our time. Scientists won’t be rewriting textbooks with this historic mission — they’ll be writing them from scratch!

Many of the key mission scientists and engineers for New Horizons are based in Colorado: Alan Stern, the principal investigator, is from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder. Lockheed Martin contributed the RTG Power Supply for the spacecraft. The University of Colorado Boulder contributed the Student Dust Counter, the first student-built instrument to launch on a NASA planetary mission. Ball Aerospace provided the camera that will give us our first real glimpse of this icy planet. Former Colorado Senator Mark Udall was instrumental in supporting the mission in its early days, when it was critical. And New Horizons launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on January 19, 2006.

Colorado, we have a lot to celebrate! So grab a friend, a neighbor or a loved one and check out the following opportunities — or organize a party of your own!

Event: New Horizons Arrival At Pluto Event
Date: July 14, 2015
Time: 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Location: CU Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium, 2414 Regent Drive, Boulder, Colorado

Description: Do you think Pluto is a planet? Regardless of which side of the argument you agree with, its Pluto’s time to shine and be the most important object in the solar system. The New Horizons spacecraft will be making its closest approach to Pluto on July 14th. This spacecraft and many of its engineers and scientists live and work in Boulder. We get to have a hometown celebration as we get the first up closes images of this tiny world. It took New Horizons over 9 years to reach Pluto. After all this time we get to see what Pluto and other objects beyond Neptune look like. Join us for a 3 hour event at Fiske that includes a showing of a new documentary “The Year of Pluto”, Live feeds from NASA headquarters and live talks using our state of the art system that makes you feel as if you are along for the ride with the New Horizons spacecraft. This event is FREE, so bring you family and friends for this flyby that has been over 10 years in the making.


Event: The Science Lounge – Pluto Party
Date: July 16, 2015
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Location: Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, Colorado

Description: Planet or not, Pluto needs a party! Celebrate the infamous dwarf planet on a journey through our solar system. Size up the stats for what defines a planet. Raise a glass and gaze out into the night sky through telescopes and learn about the New Horizons mission that offers us a peek at petite Pluto. Ages 21+. $10/Member; $12/Non-Member


Event: Pluto And New Horizons Update
Date: July 16, 2015
Time: 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Location: CU Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium, 2414 Regent Drive, Boulder, Colorado

Description: Pluto is being imaged and studied like never before. Thanks to the New Horizons spacecraft which has its roots in Boulder. Join us for an up to date presentation showcasing all of the newest images and discoveries of our favorite dwarf planet. $10/Public; $7/Child/Student/Senior


Event: Pluto And New Horizons Update
Date: July 17, 2015
Time: 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: CU Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium, 2414 Regent Drive, Boulder, Colorado

Description: Pluto is being imaged and studied like never before. Thanks to the New Horizons spacecraft which has its roots in Boulder. Join us for an up to date presentation showcasing all of the newest images and discoveries of our favorite dwarf planet. $10/Public; $7/Child/Student/Senior


Event: Fran Bagenal at Denver Astronomical Society General Meeting
Date: August 28, 2015
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Room 105, Olin Hal, University of Denver campus, 2190 E Iliff Ave., Denver, Colorado

Description: Dr. Fran Bagenal, CU, LASP will present New Horizons Pluto flyby initial results. Open to the public.