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Planetary scientist Alan Stern to speak about upcoming Pluto mission

Planetary scientist and astrophysicist Alan Stern will present a public lecture titled "A Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission: Shedding Light on Frontier Worlds" at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4, in the Corbett Center Auditorium at New Mexico State University. Admission is free.



Alan Stern, director of the Southwest Research Institute's Department of Space Studies, will speak at New Mexico State University Feb. 4.

Stern, director of the Southwest Research Institute's Department of Space Studies in Boulder, Colo., leads the team of scientists that will manage NASA's planned New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission, scheduled for launch in 2006. The New Horizons mission will help scientists understand Pluto and other objects at the edge of our solar system.

Pluto has long been a favored topic of study in Las Cruces -- the planet was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh, long-time faculty member at New Mexico State University. "It is a fitting tribute that Alan Stern's talk is scheduled for Feb. 4, the anniversary of Clyde Tombaugh's birthday," said faculty member Nicole Vogt of the university's Department of Astronomy.

Tombaugh died in January 1997 at the age of 90.

Stern's research has focused on the outer reaches of our solar system --including Pluto, the Kuiper Belt, satellites of the outer planets, and comets -- and the search for evidence of solar systems around other stars. He has written two books, "The U.S. Space Program After Challenger" (Franklin-Watts, 1987) and "Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System" (Wiley & Sons, 1997).

NASA's New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission will provide the first reconnaissance of Pluto and its moon Charon -- a "double planet" system and the last in our solar system to be visited by a spacecraft. The spacecraft is expected to launch in 2006, fly by Pluto and Charon between 2016 and 2018, and pass by one or more Kuiper Belt Objects by 2026.

Photo is available at http://kiernan.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/stern_alan.jpg.
CUTLINE: Alan Stern, director of the Southwest Research Institute's Department of Space Studies, will speak at New Mexico State University Feb. 4.

Karl Hill
Jan. 23, 2002