Lowell Observatory is pleased to announce Diana Gabaldon as the keynote speaker for the 2024 I Heart Pluto Festival’s Night of Discovery event. Gabaldon is an award-winning author and the great-granddaughter of Stanley Sykes, a pivotal figure in Lowell’s history. The event will be held at the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Flagstaff on February 17, 2023.

Gabaldon, renowned for her incredibly successful “Outlander” series, the inspiration of a hit television series on Starz, will share her insights and reflect on this unique familial connection, bridging her creative world with the scientific heritage of her great-grandfather. In addition to building the dome for the famous 24-inch Clark Telescope with his brother Godfrey, Sykes also designed the telescope that led to the discovery of Pluto in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh.

Melissa Sevigny, science reporter for KNAU Arizona Public Radio and author, will lead the discussion with Gabaldon. Following their conversation, guests will have the opportunity to meet and talk with Gabaldon during a book signing session.

Kevin Schindler, Lowell Historian and Public Information Officer and host of the Night of Discovery event, says, “We are thrilled to welcome Diana Gabaldon as our keynote speaker. Her ability to weave science into enthralling narratives aligns perfectly with the spirit of discovery at Lowell. This event is not just a celebration of Pluto’s discovery; it’s a journey through science and imagination – a true Night of Discovery.”

The Night of Discovery, sponsored by UniSource Energy Services, will begin with Schindler taking the audience through the day that Pluto was discovered by 23-year-old self-taught astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. Gabaldon’s keynote presentation will proceed after the kickoff, embracing her mission to bridge science, history, and awe through her writing.

“At Lowell Observatory, we are excited to carry out forefront astronomical research that has a long and rich history,” says Christoph Keller, Director of Science at Lowell Observatory. “Our team’s work isn’t just about scientific discovery – it’s also about igniting curiosity and passion for the universe in everyone. Diana Gabaldon’s presence at our Night of Discovery event highlights this combination of modern research and history to make complex science engaging and relevant.”

2024 I Heart Pluto Festival Schedule

  • February 16: Pluto Pub Crawl
    • Community pub crawl 5pm – 9pm: There will be astronomers placed along the route to answer your questions and hand out prizes as you enjoy custom pluto-themed drinks.
  • February 17: Night of Discovery
    • At the Orpheum Theater in downtown Flagstaff, Melissa Sevigny will lead a conversation with best-selling author and keynote speaker, Diana Gabaldon. Afterward, enjoy a book signing and an art show featuring works by members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA).
  • February 18 – 19: Festival Activities at Lowell
    • Experience Lowell Observatory’s special Pluto programming (available Sunday only).
    • Enjoy talks from our astronomy staff, a special scavenger BINGO hunt and special vendors.

This is the 4th Annual I heart Pluto Festival and marks the 94th anniversary of Pluto’s discovery. The festival promises engaging activities like solar viewing, stargazing, science talks, and meet-and-greets with Lowell’s staff of astronomers. The festival caters to Pluto-lovers of all ages.

For more information about event-specific details, please visit iheartpluto.org.

Pluto Pub Crawl
Join us to kick off the weekend of festivities on February 16 at 8 pm for Lowell Observatory’s Pluto Pub Crawl in Downtown Flagstaff. Traverse the best pubs and bars along a path drawn in Pluto’s planetary symbol. Enjoy science talks with Lowell astronomers, trivia, and custom Pluto-themed drinks along the way.

Where To Buy Tickets
Tickets for the Night of Discovery are available through Flagstaff’s historic Orpheum Theater (https://orpheumflagstaff.com), sold separately from general admission to the festival.

Tickets for the on-site festival activities and stargazing opportunities may be purchased through Lowell Observatory (https://lowell.edu) at the General Admission rate.

The Pluto Pub Crawl is an unticketed community event.

Link to Tickets to Night of Discovery:

Link to Tickets at Lowell Observatory:

Photos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1u9MgfsPlrBhg1tZ4ia82L_Z3fFyQRjPI?usp=drive_link

Thank you to Unisource Energy Services (uesaz.com) for sponsoring the 2024 Night of Discovery event. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please email Sarah Dankof (sdankof@lowell.edu).

Press Contact:
Kevin Schindler
Public Information Officer & Historian