Clyde Tombaugh


Clyde Tombaugh : biography

February 4, 1906 – January 17, 1997 (aged 90)

By May 1954, Keyhoe was making public statements that his sources told him the search had indeed been successful, and either one or two objects had been found. However, the story did not break until August 23, 1954, when Aviation Week magazine stated that two satellites had been found only 400 and 600 miles out. They were termed "natural satellites" and implied that they had been recently captured, despite this being a virtual impossibility. The next day, the story was in many major newspapers. Dr. LaPaz was implicated in the discovery in addition to Tombaugh. LaPaz had earlier conducted secret investigations on behalf of the Air Force on the green fireballs and other unidentified aerial phenomena over New Mexico. The New York Times reported on August 29 that "a source close to the O. O. R. unit here described as ‘quite accurate’ the report in the magazine Aviation Week that two previously unobserved satellites had been spotted and identified by Dr. Lincoln Lepaz of the University of New Mexico as natural and not artificial objects. This source also said there was absolutely no connection between the reported satellites and flying saucer reports." However, in the October 10th issue, LaPaz said the magazine article was "false in every particular, in so far as reference to me is concerned."

Both LaPaz and Tombaugh were to issue public denials that anything had been found. The October 1955 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine reported: "Professor Tombaugh is closemouthed about his results. He won’t say whether or not any small natural satellites have been discovered. He does say, however, that newspaper reports of 18 months ago announcing the discovery of natural satellites at 400 and 600 miles out are not correct. He adds that there is no connection between the search program and the reports of so-called flying saucers."

At a meteor conference in Los Angeles in 1957, Tombaugh reiterated that his four-year search for "natural satellites" had been unsuccessful. In 1959, Tombaugh was to issue a final report stating that nothing had been found in his search. His personal 16-inch telescope was reassembled and dedicated on September 17, 2009 at Rancho Hidalgo, New Mexico (near Animas, New Mexico), adjacent to Astronomy ‘s new observatory.

Further search

Tombaugh continued searching for some years after the discovery of Pluto, and the lack of further discoveries left him satisfied that no other object of a comparable apparent magnitude existed near the ecliptic. No more trans-Neptunian objects were discovered until , in 1992.

However, more recently the relatively bright object has been discovered. It has a relatively high orbital inclination, but at the time of Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto, Makemake was only a few degrees from the ecliptic near the border of Taurus and Aurigabased on Minor Planet Center online Minor Planet Ephemeris Service: March 1, 1930: RA: 05h51m, Dec: +29.0 at an apparent magnitude of 16. This position was also very near the galactic equator, making it almost impossible to find such an object within the dense concentration of background stars of the Milky Way.