Thanks to NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, we're about to get the first pictures of Pluto, the dwarf planet. On July 14, the probe is expecting to make its historic arrival.
Both the N.C. Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill are planning special events for the big day.
At 3:30 p.m., July 12 and July 19, Morehead will host a special Pluto-themed version of its Carolina Skies star show to celebrate the New Horizons fly-by. Regular planetarium show prices will apply. At 7:30 p.m., July 17, NASA Solar System Ambassador and WRAL blogger Tony Rice will present a live talk about the New Horizons mission. His talk, in the GSK Fulldome Theater, is free.
The museum also has a new Peek at Pluto presentation, part of its Science 360 programs, which combines discussion by a Morehead educator with photos, graphics and other visuals of the dwarf planet. It's about 30 minutes and is free. This summer, it's scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m., Sundays. It's best for ages 10 and up.
And the natural sciences museum in downtown Raleigh will host a special event from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., July 14, to mark New Horizons' journey. Museum scientists and solar system ambassadors from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, including Rice, will be on hand to see our first up-close look at Pluto.
Special presentations will be held in the Daily Planet Theater outlining humanity’s history and future with this distant dwarf planet. At 5:30 p.m., JPL Solar System Ambassador Matt Funke will present “Searching for Planet X.” At 6:30 p.m., join JPL Solar System Ambassador Alan Rich for “Earth to Pluto: How We Did It.” Find out how mankind has used science and technology in order to reach Pluto. At 7:15 p.m., learn exactly what New Horizons will do to gather data when Rice presents “Close Encounter with Pluto.” Rice will explain the spacecraft’s processes during the 12-hour fly-by and shed light on why it will take months to retrieve the volumes of data and images gathered by New Horizons, according to a press release.
At 8 p.m., the SECU Daily Planet Theater will screen NASA TV's “Phone Home,” a live broadcast of New Horizons’ arrival at Pluto from APL Mission Control. The program will include live interviews, video segments about the dwarf planet and more.
The focus on Pluto continues at 7 p.m., July 16, at the museum's Daily Planet Cafe when JPL Solar System Ambassador Shawn Bayle will present a look at the New Horizons spacecraft and the wealth of knowledge that this intrepid probe is expected to reveal.
The natural sciences museum's programs are best for ages 12 and up.
Fun fact: The name for Pluto was suggested by 11-year-old Venetia Phair in 1930.