With the first annual I Heart Pluto Festival just around the corner, Mars Hill is buzzing with extraterrestrial excitement. With our guest speakers lined up, events scheduled, and a limited-edition Pluto beer fermenting in Mother Road Brewery’s barrels, you can say that it’s all finally becoming real.
Of course, an exciting festival needs an equally exciting promotional poster to represent it. To achieve this, we enlisted the help of physics professor, astronomer, author, and artist Tyler Nordgren. Nordgren is known for his distinct vintage artstyle, as well as his fierce dedication to preserving America’s dark skies (check out his Milky Way poster series). His artwork highlights the wonders of places such as national parks, historical sites, and even distant planets—all in a style reminiscent of the colorful travel and tourism posters of the 1930’s and 40’s. Lowell patrons may find Nordgren’s work familiar, as his designs appear on a number of posters, stickers, and t-shirts currently available for purchase in Lowell’s Starry Skies Shop.
The eye-popping poster Nordgren created for the I Heart Pluto Festival features Clyde Tombaugh looking through the A. Lawrence Lowell Astrograph’s guide scope as the Pluto Dome rises up behind him. The icy ninth planet itself is alongside its moon Charon, filling in the blank spaces of the number 90. Flagstaff’s iconic San Francisco Peaks occupy the bottom of the poster, with pine trees silhouetted against their base and a starry night sky above. All in all, Nordgren cleverly and beautifully captures the essence of the festival and the spirit of Flagstaff in a single image.
While we celebrate Pluto’s legacy, we will also celebrate the return of a vital piece of its history: the Zeiss Blink Comparator. The Blink was the very instrument Clyde Tombaugh used to discover the mysterious ninth planet in 1930. It may surprise some to know that Pluto was not identified visually while looking through a telescope, but rather in an office, as Tombaugh painstakingly compared two photographic plates at a time. (Learn more about Pluto’s discovery here.) For the past few years, the Blink had been on loan to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where it was displayed in the Exploring the Planets gallery.
The Blink arrived back at Lowell Observatory on November 13, 2019. It was promptly returned to its display case in the Rotunda Museum, where it will continue educating guests about Pluto’s discovery and ongoing legacy. The Blink will be officially rededicated at 10:30am on Saturday, February 15, when the I Heart Pluto Festival is underway.