An Update on Pluto
David Weintraub, Ph.D.
Is Pluto a planet? Two years after the New Horizons mission encounter with Pluto in July, 2015, Pluto is no longer a faint white dot in our telescopes. Instead, Pluto is one of the most interesting and puzzling worlds in the solar system. We will explore what astronomers now know about the world we call Pluto. Afterwards, you can debate whether our increased knowledge about Pluto helps us better understand what a planet is and whether Pluto should be considered a planet.
The Search for Earth 2.
Keivan Stassun, Ph.D.
Prior to about 20 years ago, there was only one known solar system in the Universe — our own — and only nine (or eight) known planets. Today astronomers have cataloged several thousand other solar systems, revealing an amazing diversity of types of planetary worlds in our galaxy. Over the next 2–3 years, a groundbreaking NASA mission that uses planetary “eclipses” will seek to find planetary worlds that are most like our Earth orbiting our nearest stellar neighbors. Then, with the James Webb Space Telescope, it will be possible to remotely sense the atmospheres of these other Earths. It is likely that within the next 10 years we will know of another Earth with a breathable atmosphere like our own.
(Meals provided: breakfast, lunch)
[ 4.5-star hotel in the heart of Nashville ]
Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory is our focus today. We’ll tour the observatory and get a look at the Seyfert, DeWitt, and Bergquist Telescopes. If weather permits, we may be able to view through the Dyer’s hydrogen-alpha solar telescope, and visit The Star Chamber land sculpture on the Observatory’s grounds, incorporating a walk-in camera obscura (pinhole camera) and solstice and equinox stones.
After lunch, back in our hotel, Drs. Stassun and Weintraub from Vanderbilt Univeristy will speak. See left for details on their talks for this day.