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Facts and Info about the Dwarf Planet Pluto

Updated on October 19, 2015

The blue atmosphere of Pluto

Clyde Tombaugh, The man who discovered Pluto

Pluto is known as a dwarf planet, and rightly so, because it's more or less half the size of our moon*. No wonder that only in the modern age with large telescopes scientist found the smallest planet of the solar system. Pluto has five known moons but these where only discovered much later. The first moon of Pluto was discovered in 1978 and the last one was only recently discovered in 2012!!!

You may have heard about it but scientists have found planets around other stars as well. This was only possible with very large telescopes and observations from space. The famous Hubble Space Telescope was a big help in finding new planets around faraway stars. How many exoplanets have been discovered ? Well, at the moment of date they have already found 889 exoplanets !!!

This raises the next question. Are there planets that may support life out there ? Does Alien life exists ? Clyde Tombaugh thought it was possible. He was one of the first astronomers who spotted UFO's. On August the 20th, 1949 Clyde Tombaugh saw six rectangular lights, lights he could not explain. When seeing the strange objects Clyde was "petrified with astonishment" as he later stated.

I will tell you more about the man who discovered Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh. He was a special but at the same time normal guy who loved astronomy.

* - The moon's diameter is 2100 miles compaired to Pluto's diameter which is 1400 miles.

Pluto the Dwarf Planet

The planet Pluto, the first HD  picture ever taken.
The planet Pluto, the first HD picture ever taken.

Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto : A boy who loved the stars

As a child Clyde Tombaugh from Burdett, Kansas, was a bit of a loner. His fellow kids at school thought he was a bit "strange" and bullied him if they got the chance. Little did they know that he would discover the planet Pluto one day and become famous worldwide!!!

Clyde's father an uncle loved the stars as well and often studied star charts and maps. One day they bought a lens and build together with an old spyglass and a rolled up oilcloth as a tube a telescope. Clyde was twelve at the time and when he looked through the self made telescope he saw an image of the universe he would never forget. It was the start of a lifelong passion.

The next day Clyde undertook a journey and walked some miles to the next library.There he asked for the best books about astronomy and took as many as he could carry. After school and when he'd done his homework he studied all the astronomy books he could lay his hands on. After saving all the money he could, his father and uncle bought a real telescope. Although the telescope was relatively simple, Clyde was the happiest boy in the world when he looked through the new telescope.

Who discovered Pluto ?

Clyde Tombaugh, The discovery of Pluto
Clyde Tombaugh, The discovery of Pluto

When was Pluto discovered ?

The passion of Clyde Tombaugh the man who discovered Pluto

It happened all around the year 1922, Clyde just changed schools. Of course his class mates learned soon enough about his love for astronomy and Clyde Tombaugh earned the nickname "the comet". In the school magazine some caricatures of him where published and he was bullied at school. Something no child should ever endure because it can ruin the future of a child. Making him insecure and passive. But luckily for Clyde Tombaugh things went differently.

After graduation Tom's family did not have the money to support Tom's further education. And normally this would be the end of the story of the humble farmers boy from Burdett...
But Clyde's passion for the stars and his curiosity gave him the energy to study and read about the universe as much as he could.

In a science magazine he read about a fellow astronomer in Tennessee who had changed his normal telescope in a mirror telescope Clyde wrote the man a letter about how to build a telescope. He got a friendly response and Clyde started to construct his own telescope.

For months he worked on his telescope. he ground and polished the lenses and his father was so supportive that Clyde got some free days of at the family farm. The telescope was not completely perfect but when Clyde looked through the lens for the first time he was astonished about what he could see. Clyde was hooked and started to make an even better telescope the next day.

A great book about our Solar System with all its planets, moons and asteroids

Clyde Tombaugh and how to make a telescope

When you want to make your own telescope, polishing the lens is important. Clyde knew this and slightly different degrees in temperatures can make the lens unfocused. Therefore he started to work in the basement of the farm. He perfected his old telescope with all kinds of agricultural tools!!! He "insulated"the floor, walls and ceiling with concrete and there he made his own telescope. In total it had costed him 36 dollar, but for sure a new telescope would have been more expensive.

With his improved telescope he studied Mars and made, just like Giovanni Schiaparelli before him, all kinds of drawings of what he saw through his telescope. When he was satisfied and finished with the drawings he send them together with some star charts to the Lowell observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

To Clyde's astonishment the Observatory offered him promptly a job.

Around 1900 dr. Percival Lowell had observed strange disturbances in the trajectories of the planets Neptune and Uranus. After 15 years of complicated mathematical calculations dr. Percival Lowell concluded that there had to be a ninth planet. Sadly enough there was lack off scientists to search for the planet and the death of dr. Lowell postponed the project "planet X".

Is Pluto a planet and when was it discovered?

The famous Photo of Pluto
The famous Photo of Pluto

When was Pluto discovered?

A few days later Clyde went to the Lowell observatory. At night he put some photo sensitive plates in the telescope and at daytime he compared them with each other.In this pain striking way Clyde searched bit by bit the sky. He started his search for planet X in 1929 but it wasn't until the next year that he found something.

In the sign of twins he saw something he hadn't encountered before. Weeks of careful observation followed and on 13th of March the news traveled the globe that Clyde Tombaugh a 24 year old farmer from Kansas had discovered planet X.

After the discovery of Pluto Clyde Tombaugh got a grant to study at the university of Kansas where he earned a bachelor's and a master's degrees in astronomy.

Clyde Tombaugh died in January 1997 at a respectable age of 90. His cremated ashes where launched into space aboard the space probe New Horizons.

The picture above is the original plate from Clyde Tombaugh. The plate that shows the discovery of the Planet Pluto.

How are the moons of Pluto called?

Pluto has five moons: Charon, Nix, Hydra, Vulcan and Cerberus.

The planet Pluto was named after the ruler of the underworld.

And the first two letters of the name Percival Lowell who started and inspired the project of planet X.

UFO Spotted above France

UFO Spotted above France

I spotted a UFO above France

or did I take a picture of the Experimental Stealth Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle Experiment led by the France government..

On the 5th of June 2013 I flew back from France and to my surprise I saw something very strange tumbling across the sky. It was a flat form moving very rapidly in a controllable manner.
I've never seen anything like it. The moving object hardly left any vapor trace.

The UFO (because that's what it was, an Unidentified Flying Object...) made some angular movements, flew rapidly away and stood still for a moment. Then it struck me that I had to record it and quickly took my camera and made several shots. The best of them is shown above.

I do not know was it was but it was strange to experience a phenomonon that's hard to explain. My best guess is that it was a stealth fighter or a Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle - a project France is developing at the moment. CalledDassault nEUROn.

Clyde Tombaugh and UFO sighting next to his Telescope

Clyde Tombaugh, the man who brought UFO sightings into the open.

UFO Sighting and serious science

Although Clyde Tombaugh became a famous astronomer with his discovery of the dwarf planet pluto. He also made fame with his UFO sighting in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

It was on August 20, 1949, when Clyde Tombaugh saw several Unidentified Flying Objects. They flew in a close formation. Clyde described them as "rectangular lights". Lights he could not explain in any way. Later he stated that he was "petrified with astonishment" at the UFO sighting.

Something I can relate to when I saw the UFO shapes above France.

Clyde also saw the well known green fireballs which acted in an unusual manner. They appeared in the sky over New Mexico in 1948. He told about his UFO sightings but his findings where received very skeptical by the scientific community.

Facts and info about the dwarf planet Pluto


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    • PeterStip profile image

      PeterStip 2 years ago

      Thanks Mel and Ron, It's amazing how in the times before we used computers scientists had to gather their data. Patience and perseverance I guess. The photo's of the recent probe New Horizons and the one Clyde Tombaugh scrutinized are of such a different magnitude that it's almost impossible to believe how science progressed the last 100 years.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      In reading this I learned some interesting things about Pluto and Clyde Tombaugh. It was especially intriguing to see the photos that led Tombaugh to discover Pluto. What painstaking work it must have been to search the sky looking for dots that moved from one plate to the next. Thanks for an interesting hub.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I'm not sure if the kids had known Clyde was going to be famous they would have stopped bullying him. Luckily there are nerds like Clyde who persist in what they love and enlighten the rest of humanity with their achievements. Great hub!