A wonderful woman who was a treasure to the astronomy community died on Thursday — Patricia Tombaugh, wife of Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto’s discoverer. Many who knew her in the astronomy world were hoping she would live to see the New Horizons spacecraft reach Pluto in 2015, but that would just not be the case. Patsy had a great sense of humor and was known for her energy and enthusiasm in talking about astronomy and Pluto and in supporting her husband’s career for many years. Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930, died at the age of 90 in 1997.
Tombaugh at age 97, photographed at Rancho Hidalgo near Anima, New
Mexico, September 17, 2009. Photo: David J. Eicher
Patsy is survived by her daughter, Annette Tombaugh-Sitze; her son, Alden; five grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and one great-great grandchild.
When I last spent time with her in 2009, Patsy was still quite fond of talking about Pluto and how it was silly to have “demoted” it to dwarf planet status. The majority of astronomy enthusiasts seem to feel the same way.