A visit to Pluto Park and Jarnac Observatory

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dave Eicher and David LevyA couple of weeks ago, a big day occurred at Rancho Hidalgo near Animas, New Mexico — the dedication of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s 16-inch telescope at what is now called Pluto Park. You may have read several blogs by Senior Editor Michael Bakich, who was on-site for the dedication (see: "Party in Pluto Park" and "Working on a classic"). He participated in rebuilding the scope and observed with the nearby 30-incher belonging to Gene Turner, director of Rancho Hidalgo and the Arizona Sky Village.

I vacationed in Tucson last week (where it was 91°!) to attend the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, as collecting mineral specimens has become a passion of mine. Accompanying me was my father John, who was first interested in mineralogy and astronomy when he took a western trip as a child in 1926. (He later taught mineralogy as an assistant at Purdue before becoming an organic chemist and participating in, among other things, the Manhattan Project.) We hung out with some movers in the world of “rocks,” as the uninitiated say. They included famous collectors, dealers, and researchers Evan Jones, Marcus Origlieri, John Veevaert, and Steve Perry.

A real treat, however, apart from coming away with 63 specimens, was heading to David and Wendee Levy’s house and their Jarnac Observatory for a wonderful evening with David, Wendee, Tucson amateur astronomers Thom and Twila Peck, and John and Liz Kalas. We observed, ate, laughed, and generally had a great time.

David’s column for Astronomy magazine will premiere in the June 2009 issue — something we are all looking forward to.

Thom Peck thoughtfully sent some pictures from that evening and from the Pluto Park dedication. Here they are.

Tucson amateur astronomer Thom Peck with Patsy Tombaugh, Clyde’s widow, at Pluto Park. 

Thom Peck and Patsy Tombaugh 













Walter Haas, longtime director of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, at the dedication. 

Walter Haas 











My dad, John, a veteran of many western trips, in the Jarnac Observatory.

John Eicher 












Clyde Tombaugh’s 16-inch telescope at sunset over Pluto Park. 

Tombaugh telescope 

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