Keynote Lecture: Pluto is still dead and other good news

May 19th, 2012, 6:50pm - 11pm (see schedule)
Speaker: Prof. Michael Brown (see biography)
Location: J.J.R. MacLeod Auditorium,
Medical Sciences Building,
1 King College Circle
(see map)

Sign up for a Planetarium Show!

While the occasional "Bring back Pluto!" t-shirt can still be found in the used-shirt bin at the store, most of the world has moved on after the raucous debates about the status of Pluto and its fellow dwarf planets. Most people, though, still have little understanding for what happened to Pluto and why. Was it just too small? Was it too close to Neptune? Are astronomers just mean and arbitrary? I will answer all of these questions while giving a history of discovery in the outer solar system and explaining how the now-dead Pluto suddenly makes sense in a much more exciting new solar system of today.

Schedule of Events

Time Activity Location
6:50 - 7:50pm Planetarium shows (6:50pm and 7:20pm) - Sign up here 50 St. George street (please allow the planetarium ambassadors to lead you there from the Medical Science building)
7:15 - 8:00pm Galileoscopes for solar observing and meteorites display In Lobby outside the J.J.R. MacLeod Audiorium
8:00 - 9:15pm Mike Brown keynote lecture and question period J.J.R. MacLeod Audiorium
9:15 - 10:00pm Book signing of "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming" with Mike Brown J.J.R. MacLeod Audiorium lobby
9:15 - 10:15pm Screening of The Pluto Files (NOVA documentary, narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson) J.J.R. MacLeod Audiorium
9:20 - 11:00pm Galileoscopes and meteorites display In Lobby of McLennan Physical Labs, 60 St. George street
9:20 - 11:00pm Astronomy short videos McLennan Physical Labs, 60 St. George street, 14th floor lounge
9:20 - 11:00pm Telescope tours McLennan Physical Labs, 60 St. George street, 15th and 16th floors
9:30 - 11:00pm Planetarium shows (9:30pm, 10:00pm and 10:30pm) - Sign up here 50 St. George street (please allow the planetarium ambassadors to lead you there from the McLennan Physical Labs)


Mike Brown is the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology and has been on the faculty there since 1996. He specializes in the discovery and study of bodies at the edge of the solar system. Among his numerous scientific accomplishments, he is best known for his discovery of Eris, the largest object found in the solar system in 150 years, and the object which led to the debate and eventual demotion of Pluto from a real planet to a dwarf planet. Feature articles about Brown and his work have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Discover, and his discoveries have been covered on front pages of countless newspapers worldwide. In 2006 he was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People as well as one of Los Angeles magazine's Most Powerful Angelinos. He has authored over 100 scientific paper. He is a frequent invited lecturer at astronomical meetings as well as at science museums, planetariums, and college campuses. At Caltech he teaches undergraduate and graduate students, in classes ranging from introductory geology to the formation and evolution of the solar system. He was especially pleased by his most recent honor, the Richard P. Feynman Award for Outstanding Teaching at Caltech.

Brown received his AB from Princeton in 1987, and then his MA and PhD from University of California, Berkeley, in 1990 and 1994, respectively. He has won several awards and honors for his scholarship, including the Urey Prize for best young planetary scientist from the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences; a Presidential Early Career Award; a Sloan Fellowship; and, of course, the one that started his career, an honorable mention in his fifth-grade science fair. He was also named one of Wired Online's Top Ten Sexiest Geeks in 2006, the mention of which never ceases to make his wife laugh.

Brown is the author of "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming", a best selling memoir of the discoveries leading to the demotion of Pluto.