Pluto Flyby: New Horizons Carrying Ashes of Astronomer Who Discovered Dwarf Planet

Clyde Tombaugh noticed a speck of light that was Pluto in 1930.

ByABC News
July 14, 2015, 10:57 AM

— -- Clyde Tombaugh is finally getting to visit the speck of light he spotted at the edge of the solar system in 1930.

New Horizons has been carrying science instruments on its 3 billion mile, nine-and-a-half year journey to Pluto, and an ounce of the astronomer's ashes have also been along for the ride.

The aluminum capsule carrying the remains of Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto while working at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, is inscribed:

"Interned herein are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system's 'third zone.' Adelle and Muron's boy, Patricia's husband, Annette and Alden's father, astronomer, teacher, punster, and friend: Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997)"

"My Dad always said if he ever had the chance, he’d love to visit the planets in the solar system and around other stars," Alden Tombaugh, the late astronomer's son, said in an interview with NASA.

Tombaugh and his sister, Annette Tombaugh Sitze, said they planned to be at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, today to celebrate their father's wish to visit another planet coming true.

After its 3-billion mile journey across the solar system, New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto today at 7:49 a.m. ET.

The space probe is traveling at an approximate speed of 30,800 miles per hour and won't stop as it whizzes past Pluto. At its closest approach, New Horizons will be 7,750 miles above the surface of Pluto, approximately the distance between New York and Mumbai, India.

It's expected the team on Earth will get its first look at photos and information later today and early Wednesday since information from New Horizons takes 4.5 hours to reach Earth.