Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Downtown Las Cruces, get ready for ‘Plutomania’ in February

LAS CRUCES – The annual “Plutomania” event is returning to downtown Las Cruces in February, 93 years since local astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planet.

The City of Las Cruces’ Museum of Nature & Science is hosting “Plutomania” from 10 am to 1 pm Feb 11. The event is free, open to the public and family friendly. The museum is located at 411 N. Main St.

According to a city news release, the event will honor Tombaugh’s work and celebrate advances in the field such as NASA’s Artemis Program, the Mars Exploration Program and the James Webb Space Telescope.

Families will have the chance to take part in hands-on activities at “Plutomania” and hear presentations from experts with the New Mexico State University Astronomy Department, STEM Outreach, Las Cruces Space Festival, Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, Anthony Public Library and the Astronomical Society of Las Cruces.

Tombaugh’s planetary discovery

Tombaugh discovered Pluto on Feb. 18, 1930 while at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. He later moved to New Mexico and worked at White Sands Proving Ground, now White Sands Missile Range. He also served as a faculty member in the NMSU Astronomy Department.

He was involved with multiple other important research projects throughout his career, but Tombaugh’s planetary discovery made him a well-known New Mexico name.

Pluto was reclassified as a minor planet in August 2006 by the International Astronomical Union. However, the New Mexico Legislature passed a joint memorial in 2007 declaring Pluto will continue to be recognized as a planet in the state, “as (it) passes overhead through New Mexico’s excellent night skies.”

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