January 27, 2021

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Flagstaff, AZ. – Lowell Observatory is pleased to present a celebration 91 years in the making: the 2nd Annual I Heart Pluto Festival. Retired NASA astronauts Nicole Stott and Ron Garan and New Horizons scientists Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. Will Grundy headline the event. This free, all-virtual celebration runs from February 13-18 and features a variety of talks, tours, an art show, and a ham radio event. The festival falls on the anniversary of Clyde Tombaugh’s February 18, 1930 discovery of Pluto at Lowell Observatory.

Stott twice flew to the International Space Station (ISS) and also worked aboard the Aquarius undersea habitat. Garan is a retired test pilot and fighter pilot who also twice flew to the ISS and lived on the Aquarius. Both are accomplished artists, and on February 15 they will take part in an open discussion about how they combine the awe and wonder of their experiences to inspire people around the world.

Stern, who led the groundbreaking mission to Pluto that revealed the true nature of this tiny world, kicks off the celebration on February 13 with the presentation “Why Pluto is a Planet, the Embarrassment of the IAU, and Why They Had it Coming”. Grundy is a planetary scientist at Lowell Observatory and will speak on February 16 about our current understanding of Pluto and its system of moons.

Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930, and since then scientists, artists, and the public have been enamored with this tiny world. Lowell Observatory created the I Heart Pluto Festival in 2020 to celebrate this scientific and cultural heritage. The event will be held around the discovery day anniversary each year, culminating in the 2030 centennial of Tombaugh’s monumental find.

The 2021 schedule is below. For complete I Heart Pluto Festival program details, including how to join the events, see

February 13

*6-7 pm MST, “Why Pluto is a Planet, The Embarrassment of the IAU, and Why They Had It Coming”. Presentation by New Horizons Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern.

February 14

*6-7 pm MST, “Who was Clyde Tombaugh?” Discussion with Clyde Tombaugh’s son Al, Astronomy Editor-in-Chief Dave Eicher, and astronomy historian Bill Sheehan; moderated by Lowell Observatory Historian Kevin Schindler.

February 15

*5-6 pm MST, “Inspiration of the Cosmos”. Discussion with astronauts Nicole Stott and Ron Garan; moderated by Lowell Observatory Sole Trustee W. Lowell Putnam.

*6-7 pm MST, “Uncovering Pluto”. Behind-the-scenes Pluto tour of Lowell Observatory with Lowell Observatory educators.

February 16

*6-7 pm MST, “Pluto After New Horizons”. Presentation by Lowell Observatory Planetary Scientist Dr. Will Grundy.

February 17

*6-7 pm MST, “When the Moon Hits Your Eye”. Tour of the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station with facility scientists; special welcome by Charon discoverer Jim Christy and his wife (and Charon namesake) Charlene.

*7-8 pm MST, “Imagining Pluto: The Artist’s Journey to Envision Pluto Through the Ages”. Discussion with International Association of Astronomical Artists members Dr. Dan Durda, Marilynn Flynn, and Ron Miller; moderated by IAAA member Jon Raimer.

February 18

*5:30-6 pm MST, “Family Night at Pluto”. Family activities with Lowell Observatory Educator Victoria Girgis.

*6-7 pm MST, “Following in Clyde’s Footsteps: Pluto Discovery Day Tour”. Flagstaff tour with Lowell Observatory Historian Kevin Schindler.

*7-8 pm MST, “We Heart Pluto”. Discussion with Clyde Tombaugh’s son Al, Astronomy Editor-in-Chief Dave Eicher, New Horizons Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern, former Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans; moderated by Lowell Observatory Director Dr. Jeff Hall.

Related Events

February 13-18

*“I Heart Pluto Art Show”, with members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists.

February 13-21

*“Hamming it Up”with members of the Northern Arizona DX Association.


Media Contact
Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory
(928) 607-1387


About Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) research institution, founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell atop Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. The observatory has been the site of many important discoveries, including the first detection of large recessional velocities (redshift) of galaxies by Vesto Slipher in 1912-1914 and Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto in 1930. Today, the observatory’s 17 astronomers use ground-based telescopes around the world, telescopes in space, and NASA planetary spacecraft to conduct research in diverse areas of astronomy and planetary science. Lowell Observatory currently operates multiple research instruments at its Anderson Mesa station, east of Flagstaff, and the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope near Happy Jack, Arizona. The observatory also welcomes more than 100,000 guests per year to its Mars Hill campus in Flagstaff, Arizona, for a variety of educational experiences, including historical tours, science presentations, and telescope viewing.