Saturday, August 12, 2006

The real Yuggoth

As most of you know, HPL wrote a letter to a science publication advocating that a ninth planet existed. In his poetry he called this Yuggoth. He rwroote one of his last novels to mention Pluto he was so excited about the discovery.

In his era, amateurs could easily make these discoveries with self-education and dedication. HPL desperately wanted to be an astronomer, and no doubt saw a little Tumbaugh in his dreams.

It's great that they both have a wonderful legacy. If you know a child who dreams, please encourage them today!!

Kansas farm boy who discovered Pluto celebrated as American folk hero, By Matt Stearns
(c) McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - In articles about his life, they always called Clyde Tombaugh "a Kansas farm boy," as if to draw sharp contrast with the cosmic magnitude of his signature achievement.
Discovering a planet, after all, is a rare distinction, and Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930, is the only American to discover one of the nine named planets in our solar system.
His story sounds too all-American storybook to be true, as though Frank Capra and Horatio Alger somehow conspired to come up with the unlikely tale.

When he discovered Pluto, Tombaugh lacked a college education, having taught himself the fundamentals of astronomy on the family farm north of Burdett, Kan.
Endless hours in the fields imbued Tombaugh with a love of the stars. The sky just looks bigger, more intense out there with nothing to block it, said Tombaugh's daughter, Annette Tombaugh-Sitze.

He got his start with a telescope from the Sears-Roebuck catalog at about age 12. Soon, he wanted more. Money was scarce, so Tombaugh took to making his own high-powered telescopes, grinding glass for them in a root cellar that provided perfect temperatures for doing such delicate work.

"Many a time I have got up, long after midnight, and there he would be, out with his telescope, even after a long, hard day's work plowing or in harvest," Tombaugh's mother told The Kansas City Star after her son's discovery. "I would call to him to come in and go to bed. ... But he'd be out there till daylight came and the stars faded out."

Tombaugh used his homemade telescopes to map planetary movements. He sent his best work to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., whose search for a new planet fired his imagination. A job offer followed. Tombaugh stayed on the farm long enough to earn money to buy a one-way train ticket to Flagstaff.

He was 24 at the time.

One day there it was, a pinprick of light on photos of the sky taken with a high-powered telescope on consecutive nights.

Something no one had seen before.

"There are 15 million stars in the sky as bright or brighter than Pluto, 15 million," Tombaugh told National Public Radio in 1995, two years before his death at age 90. "I had to pick one image out of the 15 million. That's like looking for a needle in a haystack, and that's what most people aren't willing to do. It's brutal.

"But I knew that if I didn't do this job they'd send me back home. And this is much better than pitching hay."

The discovery made Tombaugh a celebrity and won him a scholarship to the University of Kansas. He worked summers on the family farm while studying astronomy, then spent decades gazing at the stars, teaching his passion and making a series of important, if less celebrated, scientific contributions.

In Burdett, population about 250, they use the Tombaugh connection even today to teach kids to dream big, that "they can do something worldwide if they want," said Brenda Beecher, a former science teacher there.

Tombaugh-Sitze said questions about whether Pluto merited the status of a planet always bothered her father. But she's sure he's having the last laugh: His ashes are aboard a research spaceship hurtling toward a 2015 encounter with Pluto, his majestic discovery, whatever it is.
"Dad's on a great adventure," she said.

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