The great planet debate - November

Welcome to Live From the Hubble Space Telescope, a Passport to Knowledge project.

From: Geoff Haines-Stiles : Welcome to discuss-hst



From: (Jan Wee): Welcome to discuss-hst!

From: Geoff Haines-Stiles : Re: Great Planet Debate schedule

From: (Jan Wee): LFHST Web Page, reminders, etc.

From: Todd Pearce : Introduction and Planet Selection

From: a RE-introduction

From: Ginny Dexter : Re: Great Planet Debate schedule

From: "Donna O'Callaghan" : Introduction

From: "Jake Chaput (Arlington Elementary)" : Hubble plans

From: (Jan Wee): Thanks for posting!

From: FRITZ : Intro, and looking for email and proshare partners

From: "Ruth Wahl" : Introduction

From: (Patricia Gosda): Intro. and video problem

From:FRITZ :Students are excited


Welcome to Live From the Hubble Space Telescope, a Passport to Knowledge project.

Through a special relationship with the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the HST for NASA and the European Space Agency, Passport to Knowledge has been assigned 3 orbits of the HST for original observations to be researched, planned, executed and published as part of the Live from the Hubble Space Telescope project. Observing time on the HST is extremely valuable, so this is an exceptional commitment by STScI to support education. A half-hour hour program, The Great Planet Debate, will air November 9, 1995 at 10:30-11:00 Eastern, and provide an introduction to the activity, which will then use the Internet as its principal medium for information, discussion and collaboration.

The original HST observations are targeted for March 1996. At that time, four planets - Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto - are available targets for study. STScI suggested looking at planets because more distant, fainter galaxies and other objects require many more orbits to secure data that's likely to be scientifically significant. Planets are also more familiar to students - and Jupiter and Uranus will have been introduced during the Kuiper activities.

The introductory video will ask 4 astronomers and educators associated with STScI to lay out the case for observing one or other of the candidate planets, and provide documentary reports on what's already known, and what could be discovered.

Simultaneously, NASA's K-12 Internet Initiative will activate special online resources to support Live from the Hubble Space Telescope. Organized much like LFS, students will find a great deal of information on the planets, HST and STScI. There'll be pointers to the extensive astronomical materials STScI and others already provide online. This information will be available on the web pages found at

Most importantly, students can actively participate in a discussion to brainstorm, research, develop and deliver suggestions about which planet to observe with the 3 Live from the Hubble Space Telescope orbits. To join this discussion, send an Email message to

In the message body, write these words:
subscribe discuss-hst
Individual students and classes will be able to collaborate from sites all across America. We also anticipate involvement from Europe, since the European Space Agency contributes 20% of STScI support and participates fully in all HST activities. Students will engage in activities from the somewhat trivial (does one planet advocate group want to be known as the "Pluto-crats", another the "By Jovians"?) to more significant. The discussion will be (lightly) moderated by astronomer-mentors and educators with experience with faciliating online collaboration. Access to expert scientific support will be brokered by Passport to Knowledge so that students can develop suggestions which conform to guidelines for professional research on the HST which must focus on significant scientific questions, be achievable within the number of orbits and time assigned, and not duplicate existing research

STScI already posts on-line materials to assist researchers in submitting proposals. Passport to Knowledge will work with STScI to adapt these for student information.

By December, we need to arrive at a consensus about which planet(s) to observe, and what research to suggest. A final determination will be made by group consisting of educators working with Passport to Knowledge, astronomers from STScI and student representatives communicating via the Internet.

January and February 1996 will see the consensus plan transformed into the practical logistics it takes to fly an experiment on the Hubble. Students will be able to go online and monitor the progress of "their" observations through the planning pipeline. Online Journals from computer programmers and planners will allow students to look behind the scenes to see how their suggesitons become precise instructions to be radioed up to the HST.

The actual Live from... observations will take place in early March '96, and be broadcast in a live, one-hour program which will also feature videotaped reports on the preparatory activities that took place at the STScI and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (from where the HST is controlled) in the previous months. The raw data comprising the observations will be downlinked from the HST during the program, but STScI astronomers warn that it will take several weeks to process the information and assess just how successful the observations have been.

In late April, in the week after National Astronomy Day (April 20, 1996), during NSF's National Science and Technology Week, the final Live from the Hubble Space Telescope program will report the results of the student- suggested observations, and invite interaction by video, phone fax and email between the youngsters who have shaped the experiments and the astronomers who will help interpret the data.

A final edited program will summarize the entire activity, and document how the multimedia combinaton of Internet and interactive television created a truly unique opportunity for students to engage in real-world research.

So stay tuned.....


Date: Tue, 14 Nov 1995 17:06:29 -0800 (PST) From: Geoff Haines-Stiles : Welcome to discuss-hst

Dear teacher, student or life-long learner,
(no matter your status, please consider this addressed to YOU, even if some places seem to speak more to those engaged in "formal education")

Welcome to discuss-hst! If you're part of this list, we assume you've already heard about the unique challenge being offered to students over the coming weeks: to help decide which of four planets should be studied with 3 dedicated orbits of the Hubble Space Telescope! As Dr. Anne Kinney (Project Scientist for Education at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which manages the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA) said, "It's unprecedented. We've never used Hubble telescope orbits for classroom use before. Another unique thing about the program is that we are trying to have students involved in which planet to look at."

To make sure you receive all the relevant news, please join the updates-hst list as well. 

If you missed the introductory video in the LIVE FROM THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE series, "The Great Planet Debate", you have a few options:

  1. contact your local PBS station to see if they plan to re-broadcast it; each station sets its own schedule so "check local listings" always applies!

  2. if you have access to NASA-TV (which used to be called "NASA Select"), you'll find they plan to carry the 1/2 hour broadcast several times during November and early December. Some local cable stations will program an access channel to carry NTV if so requested. During LIVE FROM ANTARCTICA and LIVE FROM THE STRATOSPHERE [LFS] (previous PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE projects) some educators also found local community colleges were prepared to tape programs direct from the NASA or PBS satellite, again if requested sufficiently in advance.

  3. If accessing these feeds proves impossible, you can order them from Passport to Knowledge.
You'll also find printed background on pages 59 and 60 of the LFS "Teacher's Guide", which was distributed as part of the LFS mini-kit, and remains available online.

But you're here, now, on "discuss-hst", and there are several things to do.

First, we assume you and your students need and want to become somewhat better acquainted with the four target planets, and the possible observations. To do that, we want to introduce you to several print and online resources which can provide current information, and then to our "Planet Advocates", whom you may have seen in "The Great Planet Debate".

Then we'll explain how participating in "discuss-hst" will lead to a consensus decision on planet(s) and observation(s) BY DECEMBER 15, 1995! Yes, time is short, but delaying any longer will make it impossible to plan and execute the observations before the end of the 1995-1996 school year.

Our candidates are JUPITER, URANUS, PLUTO and NEPTUNE... 3 of them giant gas planets, 2 with ring systems, one with strange ring arcs, one smaller than Earth and incredibly frigid, but with a giant moon fully half its size! All of them have unique properties, as you can see in the descriptions of the "Planet Advocates", which you will soon be able to read on the Web page ( and which will be sent out, section by section, as "updates".

As Space Telescope Science Institute "planning scientist for Moving Targets" Alex Storrs described it in the LFS Guide and in the LHST video, there are many decisions to be made, and not all of them are immediately apparent.

Jupiter at first seems the obvious choice. It's massive, colorful, the King of the Planets. An observation in early '96, says "Mrs. Jupiter", Planet Advocate RETA BEEBE, would also help us understand just where NASA's Galileo spacecraft had delivered its atmospheric probe, due to descend into the dense clouds on December 7, 1995.

In contrast, Pluto is dim, dark and distant... but for that very reason, there's a good justification to study it with the HST. Alone among the planets of our home solar system, there's been no spacecraft mission there to date, and as yet none is approved. Observations by HST, as part of the PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE project, argues Planet Advocate MARC BUIE, therefore have a good chance to make a substantive discovery.

On the other hand, Neptune has Great Dark Spots that seem to come and go in a span of years, and maybe even quicker: students have a fair chance of being the first to spy a New Dark Spot, which -- as Planet Advocate HEIDI HAMMEL argues -- would be "theirs". She argues the swirling hurricanes and rapidly shifting cloud patterns provide models for weather that are entirely relevant for Earth.

Uranus is a favorite of Planet Advocate CAROLYN PORCO: she thinks Hubble's sophisticated detectors might be able, for the first time, to help figure out the composition of Uranus' dark rings. These in turn may be a vital clue to the chemistry of the outer solar system, which many believe preserves in cold storage the kind of materials from which Earth, and life itself, first formed.

In truth, any one of these observations has the potential for real discovery, and real insights into the process of contemporary science. And, as Heidi and Carolyn argue in their first set of comments, making hard choices between several equally good options is also what real science is all about. We hope you and your students come to realize there's no "right" answer as to what planet we should study, just a good, well-considered decision.

We hope you will research for yourselves the latest scientific information on the planets. The LHST Web site already contains references suggested by the Planet Advocates for several, general interest, readily understandable articles and chapters that they believe are current and provide good background to help you and your students begin.

You'll also find several Web pages listed below, some dedicated just to one of the planets, but others well worth visiting, no matter towards which target you find yourself gravitating.

The Hubble's true "home" page is at STScI (you might as well get used to acronyms!): here you'll find hundreds of images of all kinds of astronomical objects, including the amazing pictures of star-forming regions in M16, the Eagle Nebula, which appeared on front pages all across America last week, including TIME for KIDS. You'll also find material, usually of interest only to Principal Investigators. Some of it is, we admit, too technical, but some may well be of interest to upper grades, since your students will become "Co-Investigators" with the Planet Advocates.

The "Tour of the Planets" page at LANL (author: Calvin Hamilton -- attaboy!) is perhaps the most useful "online encyclopedia" on the solar system you'll find. There's a consistent format for data all the planets, and useful basic facts.

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space is an independent, student-based organization... a little more hip... great design... and also provides an overview of the entire solar system.

The Pluto Home Page at JPL, designed to support interest in a spacecraft mission to bring the planet "Out of the Darkness", also has great material on myth and history, as well as some innovative futuristic mission concepts.

The Galileo mission also provides several relevant web sites for learning. The JPL page is about the overall mission, the Ames Probe page focuses on the Probe mission, and Online from Jupiter connects you with the people that are responsible for Galileo.

We hope this, together with NASA's Spacelink ( give you some basics, and we are sure you'll use Internet SEARCH functions to take you far and wide. We hope soon to read postings from you and your students about other sites you find of interest, because of their information, imagery or gosh darn quirkiness... and that you'll share them with the online community of researchers we hope "discuss-hst" will rapidly become.

We also expect that Planet Advocates, like Marc Buie, will be upgrading their own Web sites with current, as-yet-unpublished data -- and you'll be the first to know via "discuss-hst"!

When you and your students have done some initial digging (can you dig while surfing? Guess we'll soon find out!), we assume you'll be ready to begin an online conversation, via e-mail, with our Planet Advocates. As we said in the video, PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE feels pleased and proud to have enlisted some of America's foremost astronomers as "virtual mentors" for this project. All are extremely busy, but all are also extremely enthusiastic about their participation. The first few messages from them, posted on our Web site, and also sent out in text as part of our "updates", will present personal background about why they themselves became astronomers, and why they are particularly interested in "their" planet. You'll also find specifics about what aspect of the planet they are most interested in observing with the Hubble. While headlined in the video, their online comments will naturally be more extensive. They'll also talk about why HST can make a particular contribution. And they understand and are excited about their role in INTERACTING with students. The choice of planet and the choice of specific observation is NOT a "done deal". Student input really will shape what happens next March and April as the observations are executed, interpreted and reported.

Very soon we expect discussants will be sending message, questions, queries, cavils, caveats... back and forwards to the Advocates, and to each other. Stay tuned for directions about how to ride this evolving wave!

We also hope that while you connect nationally, courtesy of NASA's K-12 Internet Initiative, which is the host of the online portions of the project, that you will "act locally", by reaching out to local planetariums or local astronomy groups who can provide additional input on the planets, and the specific aspects which Hubble can research. You can already find pointers to list of planetariums and amateur astronomers on the LFS Home Page.

But regardless of the process, by December 15, 1995, we must have decided which planet will be our target. PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE will enlist astronomers, educators, maybe a poet or two -- and certainly STUDENTS -- in that decision, but it won't be a "vote". Rather, we're aiming for consensus, with our rationale also posted online.

Phew... quite busy weeks await us. Stay tuned... and cool and connected!

Project Director and Executive Producer,



Dear Discuss-ers,

We hope you and your students will roar back from the Thanksgiving break with comments, questions and suggestions for the PLANET ADVOCATES and for this list about which planet to observe with the 3 PASSPORT orbits of the HST.

To help advance that process, here are remarks from each of the PLANET ADVOCATES about "their" planet and themselves. A separate posting will carry references for articles and chapters which should be easily understood by your classes (this was posted on the Web page, but through an oversight, not on discuss-hst. You should expect, from now on, that postings on the Web page and via regular e-mail will be contemporaneous.)

We've also had requests for a summary overview of the timetable for LHST, and what you can do to "get ready" (e.g. establishing contact with local PBS stations, or ensuring a local cable channel will carry NASA TV.) Expect that information to arrive via updates-hst, to which we expect you're already subscribed.

Lastly, we DO intend to create a 48-page Teacher's Guide, in print and online editions, closely modeled on the successful ANTARCTICA and STRATOSPHERE versions, accompanied by additional images and hands-on materials. Again, an updates message will contain more information in the very near future.

But we hope you find our PLANET ADVOCATES words intriguing and inspiring.

With LFA and LFS Online Moderator JAN WEE ready, willing, able and anxious to reprise that role for discuss-hst, we hope you'll start posting queries, comments, suggestions, etc. RIGHT NOW, so that we can arrive at that "consensus decision" by December 15, 1995.

Good luck... stay cool and connected!
Project Director and Executive Producer, PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE and the LIVE FROM specials



This is the first set of verbatim comments from the LIVE FROM THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE "Planet Advocates", excerpted from interviews recorded for LHST program 101, "The Great Planet Debate". In many cases, these remarks are more extensive than appear in the program, and some are entirely original. Future "updates-hst" will provide additional material to help you understand the merits of observing one or other of the target planets (Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune or Uranus.)

This first update lets you see our "P.A."s answers to the questions:


Note, this time we present comments in "counter-alphabetical order", just to ensure we are not accused of "Anti-Uranian" prejudices!


(1) Prof. CAROLYN PORCO, University of Arizona, on URANUS

Well, you have to understand that I consider myself to be one of the most privileged human beings on the face of the earth because I personally participated in the Voyager (robotic spacecraft: ed) mission to the outer solar system, and I was there for the encounters with Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. And I was a member of the Voyager imaging team for the encounter with Uranus, and then Neptune, so those two planets... I have a personal relationship with them practically, so they are all very exciting to me, so just the thought of studying any of them is... is like going home, almost...

As far as what I find personally exciting about Uranus, Uranus is a very puzzling object. It's tilted relative to its orbit... its axis is tilted some ninety-eight degrees, so itUs one of the two or three oddball planets in the solar system that has such an exaggerated tilt, but it's the only large, gaseous planet that falls into that category, so it obviously went through a very catastrophic event. People believe it got hit by an Earth-, Mars- or Earth-sized object, sometime while it was forming, which tilted the planet on its side and caused it to have this bizarre rotation. And all the objects in orbit around it, the rings and the satellites are all in the equatorial plane, so they formed afterwards, obviously, or else they would not find themselves in the place that they do. So that's puzzling: is that really what happened? I mean, I just told you something that we believe to be true, but is that really what happened? Did a large proto-planet actually hit Uranus and cause it to tilt on its side?

If indeed that did happen, then it also has very interesting implications for the composition of the objects that orbit around Uranus because such an event would probably have spewed out materials from the proto-Uranus object, and the material that got spewed out into this disk would have been very different from the material that existed in the outer part of the (proto-planetary: ed) disk, for example, in composition. And that ties into the fact that the Uranian rings and the Uranian satellites are very spectroscopically peculiar compared to the objects that are orbiting around Saturn and Jupiter, for instance. (see the next update for more on HST and its instrumentation: ed.)

...The material, the dark material that we see in the Jovian and the Saturnian systems, that is, in the rings and in the satellites in orbit around those two planets, is very dark but it's red, and we are coming more to the idea that the material in those systems is organic... However the material, the dark material in the Uranian system is spectrally gray, that means it has about the same brightness across the visible portion of the spectrum, so it's different. Now, we don't know why it's different. And it may be compositionally different, it may be different because of some process that's going on in the Uranian system and has been going on since Uranus formed, we just don't know the answer to that...

(2) Prof HEIDI HAMMEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology on NEPTUNE

What I like best about the planet Neptune is that every time you look at it, it's different, so Neptune can be >your< planet. The pictures that would be taken of Neptune would be yours. No one else would have seen the clouds that you see and they'll never be seen again probably. And so that means that the pictures of Neptune you take would be absolutely unique...

One of the biggest surprises when the Voyager spacecraft flew by Neptune was a huge dark spot on the planet, and we called it the Great Dark Spot. We weren't able to see it from Earth because Neptune is the most distant planet from us right now, and it is very hard to see things there. When we looked with the Hubble space telescope last year that Great Dark Spot was gone! It had simply disappeared, it wasn't there anymore, which was a big surprise but, when we looked very, very carefully, we saw a different big, dark spot on the planet, in the northern part of the planet -- the other one was in the South -- so that means Neptune's atmosphere just turned upside down! When we would look at Neptune this time we don't know what we are going to see: there might be a whole, new dark spot and that dark spot would belong to this group, they would have discovered it.

...this big dark spot... is a huge storm, a big hurricane. Apparently the hurricanes on Neptune don't last very long, and one of the things that would be really interesting to know was, how long do they last?

(3) Dr. MARC BUIE, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, on PLUTO

Pluto just in 1988 passed perihelion, which is the point at which it's closest to the sun, and it's gonna begin its hundred... and twenty year voyage to its most distant place in its orbit. And over this time Pluto is going to receive less and less sunlight, and basically cool off, so we have, now, an opportunity to study Pluto when it is at its warmest, and if we don't take the opportunity now to... make these observations we'll have to wait another two hundred and forty years to repeat the experiment.

Pluto for young people -- and I consider myself still young, although I might not look it anymore -- Pluto... is sort of the last "astronomers' planet". We haven't yet had a close-up view with a spacecraft. We have an opportunity here to see the development of a science- and a knowledge-base about Pluto develop in our lifetimes. And certainly the past ten years have been exciting, watching what we learned about Pluto, and I am certain we are going to learn a great deal more, but this is sort of the special epoch in human history where we are learning for the first time what this planet is all about...

(4) Prof RETA BEEBE, New Mexico State University, on JUPITER

What I would like most to know is, what are the processes that make the winds blow on Jupiter. The winds are much, much stronger (than on Earth: ed), and I can rationalize the fact that, well, yes, because it's such a dense bank of clouds and there's really no solid surface, there's no friction that there is on Earth to destroy the winds. But when I look at the wind pattern, from the equator up through seven degrees north latitude, twenty degrees... I find jets, and the wind increases surprisingly rapidly, and then drops off surprisingly rapidly. I don't understand the processes that create such narrow jets. We have jet streams in the earth but they are quite broad, but here (on Jupiter: ed) the better the spatial resolution I get on my images, the narrower my wind jets are, and I do not understand that process, and I would really like to know.

(In addition to more general interest in Jupiter, Prof. Beebe -- as a member of NASA's Galileo team -- thinks the PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE Hubble observations could make a great contribution towards understanding the precise place where the Galileo atmospheric probe will plunge into the giant planet's dense, roiling clouds: ed)

We have the Galileo Probe going in on December 7th. and we know the latitude and longitude relative to the core of the planet, but the winds are blowing across that from West to East in such a way that they are carrying the clouds around the planet, and the clouds will be shifting eastward 7 and half degrees a day, so that the nature of the cloud area that the probe is going to go through is a big question. We (already: ed) have HST observations in October and scheduled for February, and we will assume the winds do not speed up or slow down, and we will interpolate and say that is the cloud it went in, but if we had even just one orbit in March to compare with the February and October, it would help to substantiate the fact that that assumption was true.

...And then the students that were collaborating here could also access these images and that would allow them to see what was happening... they would be able to access the Web pages that have been assembled at (NASA) Ames Research Center, about the analysis of the probe. Because by the time the students get their observations in March, the people at Ames will be reducing the probe data. So there is a lot of interaction there. And this would be a valid interaction because it would further substantiate the condition... how rapidly it was changing.


(1) Prof. CAROLYN PORCO, University of Arizona, on URANUS

...the chemistry of the solar system is a very interesting issue for us... We want to understand how the solar system originated, why it looks the way it does, because, ultimately, frankly, what we really want to know is how we got here -- we're all pretty self-centered about this -- we want to know how life got started on the Earth, and chemistry is a very important issue for that. So we also want to understand the chemistry of the outer solar system because we believe the material in the outer solar system, as you march further and further out into the outer solar system, you get more and more pristine, unaltered material in the outer planets, or in the systems of the outer planets, the satellites and the rings, there is material there that we don't understand quite yet, and it may have bearing on the chemistry of the rest of the solar system. So, if we could figure out what we don't know now, and that is what is the composition of the material in the Uranian system, and its satellites, and in its rings, then we will have a piece of the puzzle that we didn't have before, even a piece of the puzzle that we were unable to get with Voyager.

(2) Prof HEIDI HAMMEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology on NEPTUNE

One thing that we all care about is the weather. And we care about the weather on the Earth the most. But what makes weather is gases and clouds. And the reason the weather on the Earth is hard to predict is because we have oceans and continents that interact with our atmosphere. That makes it very hard to predict the weather, as we all know. But if you take a planet like Jupiter or Neptune, you don't have continents and you don't have oceans. All you have is gas. All you have is atmosphere. And therefore it is a lot easier to model the weather on those planets. But it's the same physical process, it's the same kind of thing happening whether it happens on the Earth or whether it happens on Neptune. Therefore, by studying weather on Neptune we learn about weather in general, and that helps us understand the weather on Earth better.

(3) Dr. MARC BUIE, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona

The general exploration of the solar system means that we get to go out and study the planets that are around us. Each one of these is a laboratory for different conditions in and around a star, and every one of these is important. Pluto (is) one of the few sets of such planets that we have to observe, and it makes sense to learn as much as we can about our own neighborhood, in hoping and planning for -- one of these days -- that maybe we'll break out of our own solar system and go on and explore other planets. But until then, we need to make the most of the eight neighboring planets that we have... Each of these planets has its own personality, they are all unique and tell us something special about that location in the solar system, and Pluto will certainly be no exception in that regard.

...The most exciting thing that could come out of this (PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE: ed) observation, I think, is that we could take a picture, or say, a set of 3 pictures, get a map of the surface and compare it against the map that we did 3 years ago, and look and find a real change. That some patch on Pluto is now brighter, or darker, and this will start to tell us something very important about how fast the surface might be changing in response to its changing seasons. And I would consider that to be a very fundamental discovery...

(4) Prof RETA BEEBE, New Mexico State University, on JUPITER

The thing I find most fascinating is that the more I learn about this planet the more it's like the earth, and it seems so much unlike the earth. Here's a planet (where) two thirds as much energy is coming from below the clouds as is coming in from the sun so that this atmosphere is being heated from above and below. In the case of the earth's atmosphere, the sunlight -- a lot of it does come through and hit the surface and so it is bottom-heated. So the processes that go on are much more similar than you might think. The other thing that I have found, as I have worked on Jupiter, is that although I can't see what's happening down below it obviously strongly influences how the winds blow, how these large storms are maintained, and that sort of thing.

And when we attempt to study the earth's atmosphere we have the same thing with the oceans. Recently we have become aware of El Nino, major upwellings, and how it totally modifies the climate of the earth, so the more the learn about these two (planets) the more they become similar rather than dissimilar...


(1) Prof. CAROLYN PORCO, University of Arizona

I actually became interested in astronomy through an interest in religion and Eastern philosophy. I was at a very questioning stage in my early teen years, thirteen or fourteen, I was going to a parochial school, Catholic school, I was having a lot of religious concepts more or less shoved at me, and I was supposed, of course, to accept them unquestioningly... I just started to think about religion in general, about philosophy, I started to read existentialism and the whole thing ...and along with this internal questioning I found myself one evening ...waiting for the bus to go home, this is in the Bronx ...and I am waiting at the bus station and it's bedlam, it's rush hour, it was dark, it was a Fall or Winter evening, there are cars and people rushing everywhere and I just, you know, looked up and I saw a very bright object, I don't know if it was Jupiter or if it was Sirius, but it was a very bright object, and I just started to mull about this, and think about, you know, what was out there. And so my thinking went from being very internally-oriented to being more externally-oriented, and I started to read about planets and stars and galaxies and... and what the universe contained as a whole.

...I also had a friend who was going through a similar thing, she had got a telescope for Christmas, and she and I went to the top of her roof with the telescope and we peered through it, and I don't remember if it was Jupiter or Saturn, actually, that we first saw, but you would have thought we discovered it, it was so exciting... we hopped up and down and hooted and hollered it was just one of those wonderful moments, kind of a communion with the universe. So I came to the study of astronomy actually starting on more or less a religious quest, and then it got diverted into a real interest in what was out there and how I fit into things.

(2) Prof HEIDI HAMMEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

I think there's two things that I remember from when I was a kid that most interested me in astronomy ...I was not an amateur astronomer as a child. The two things: one is that I used to get car sick, and my parents used to take us on trips a lot in the car and so I had to lie on the back seat being sick, and the only thing I could do was look out the window and see the stars. And so I learned the constellations, I learned what the bright stars were, and so that's what kept me going on those long car trips.

And the second thing I remember, when I was a kid, is going to a planetarium, and they would do a star show about what the stars were looking like and what was "up" -- the planets -- and that was all kind of boring, but then at some point during the show a comet would streak across the sky with flames and a roar that was really loud, and you never knew when it was going to happen, and it was really exciting. And I would go back to the planetarium again and again and again just to wait for that comet to come. And I think I probably picked up a little astronomy along the way when I was doing that.

And then when I got into college I took an astronomy course that was just so much fun. I loved working with telescopes, I loved taking pictures of things, taking data, and I just stuck with it.

(3) Dr. MARC BUIE, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona

For me, my career and what I decided to do with my life and studying Pluto, mostly, has grown out of a... childhood fascination with space earliest memory is of the Mercury launch -- sitting in a dark, cold, living room, watching the TV, and I must have only been three or four years old at the time, but I can clearly remember watching the lift-off.

...and as I was growing up there was this great future that we were looking forward to. With what we were thinking, back when I was in junior high school, I figured by now we'd be on Mars. And now I would say that I am a little bit disappointed that we kind of retrenched, and we are not as far along as I think we ought to be or could be. But on the other hand I have to say that the thing that's got me... excited about science was the space program, and the exploration we were about, and doing and looking beyond the Earth, and out into the solar system. And from my earliest memories that captured my imagination and has propelled me into what I do today.

(4) Prof RETA BEEBE, New Mexico State University, on JUPITER

I grew up in the hills of Colorado. My father was a farmer/rancher... I did not realize that my father was also a naturalist, who'd done a lot of study on his own, because he'd never even gone to high school. So I just assumed that almost everybody in the whole world knew everything that my father did. I learned to pick out the constellations. I spent my childhood trying to say RmoneyS three times before a falling star disappeared, because I would get rich. So that I had a very rich natural environment, animals all around me the whole time, we lived on a ranch. My mother was a teacher and very interested in education, history, that sort of thing, so... she did not answer our questions, she sent us to a book. So it became logical to use a book.

My brothers were all very much younger than I, so I was pretty much free to be what was frequently called the "wild woman". My father used to claim that he had to get the horseshoe rasp out to get my feet in shape to send me to school in the Fall, because we really did run wild, wonderfully wild, in the summertime. And I just simply learned to enjoy the out-of-doors.

When I started teaching, part of the motivation for starting teaching was that I had the summers off to do the kinds of things that I wanted to do. I was teaching in Colorado, where I grew up, and we ranged through the state, you know, on projects for the geology that we would be teaching in junior high. And the space program was developing, and I decided I was not smart enough to continue teaching in junior high, so I went back to get some more training, and had so much fun, I just stayed.



Till then, stay cool and connected.



Here are references for GENERAL INTEREST, and relatively NON-TECHNICAL information on the candidate planets. If YOU and YOUR STUDENTS find other sources, not listed here, which you find of value, please share them with the list!



(1) for JUPITER, Planet Advocate RETA BEEBE suggests:

Jupiter, The Giant Planet, by Reta Beebe, Smithsonian Press, Wash. D.C. 1994. ISBN 1-56098-417-1.

This is a general book that covers the whole Jovian System and was edited to be appropriate for the interested reader.

(A revision of the chapter on the Shoemaker-Levy 9 is due Jan 15, 1996. At that time the Press expects to turn it into a paper back.)

Another general book is: Hunt, G & P. Moore, Jupiter, New York: Rand McMally & Co, 1981.

The New Solar System, Beatty, J.K. and A Chaikin., Sky Publishing Co.,Cambridge, Mass. ISBN 0-933346-55-7.

A textbook: Unfortunately the new edition will not be out until mid-spring.

Morrison, D. and T. Owen, The Planetary System, Addison-Wesley Publishing Corp. 1988. ISBN 0-201-10487-3.

Coverage of Voyager

Voyager Team."Mission to Jupiter and Its Satellites:
Voyager 1, Science (June 1, 1979) pp. 945-1008.
Voyager 2, Science (Nov 23, 1979) pp. 925-995.

These are heavily illustrated and written for the general audience. They cover the early discoveries of the Voyager Missions.

Periodicals that would be useful are available on local News Stands

Astronomy (ISSN 0091-6358)
Sky and Telescope (ISSN 0037-6604)
The Planetary Report (ISSN 0037-6604) Published monthly by The Planetary
Society, Pasadena, Calif.
Science News


(2) for PLUTO, Planet Advocate MARC BUIE suggests:

There aren't many books out there that discuss Pluto itself instead of the history of it's discovery. I've included one book that has a good chapter on Pluto, a recent Scientific American review-type article (written by a good friend of mine), and a collection of news notes and short articles over the years from Sky & Telescope.

These S&T articles illustrate the progress that is being made in understanding Pluto up to the current day.

Planets Beyond: Discovering the Outer Solar System. Mark Littmann. John Wiley & Sons, 1988.

Pluto. R. P. Binzel. Scientific American, June 1990, p. 50-58.

Sky & Telescope: 6/85, p. 501-502; 9/87, p. 248-251; 12/88, p. 624-627; 10/89, p. 346-348; 10/91, p.340; 1/93, p. 9; 12/93, p. 10; 5/94, p. 14-15; 11/94, p. 14

A student that could absorb all this information would be very well prepared to discuss the proposed HST observations of Pluto. To get any deeper would require reading articles in the professional journals.


(3) for URANUS, Planet Advocate CAROLYN PORCO comments:

There is a problem: all of the non-scientific references I'm aware of do not include the work (in which Carolyn was a principal: ed.) which explains (i) the most important dynamical information on the Uranus' rings, that is, that two of them are being shepherded by two of the Voyager-discovered small satellites, Cordelia and Ophelia, and (ii) that the rings appear to be colorless.

The reference below written by Ellis Miner is rather technical but does include some new results.

`Atlas of Uranus', by Garry Hunt and Patrick Moore, Cambridge University press, 1988.

`Uranus: the Planet, Rings and Satellites, by Ellis Miner, Praxis Publishing Ltd, Chichester, England, 1990. (Praxis used to be Ellis Horwood Ltd, a division of Simon and Schuster.)

Porco, C.C. (1986) `Voyager 2 and the Uranian Rings', in the Planetary Report, V1, No. 6, p. 11-13.

There is a video, created at JPL, entitled: `Uranus: I will see such things' which discusses the discovery of Uranus in 1781 by William Hershel, and the Voyager 2 encounter. It apparently also includes a comprehensive discussion of the moons and rings, but again was created probably too early for it to have the latest information.

And I just now received a list of web sites (which I haven't looked at myself) from Ellis Miner at JPL which include information on the planets. (Note: if you have Web access, there are links from the LHST Home Page to many of these sites. Ed.)

  1. This is put together by JPL and is part of a general introduction to all the planets as viewed by spacecraft flown by JPL.

  2. As the address implies, this is an attempt to make NSSDC data, both general and detailed, on the planets available through internet access.

  3. Calvin Hamilton at LANL has done as good a job at collecting tabular and pictorial data on the planets and their systems as any I have seen. (We agree! Ed.)

  4. Bill Arnett has his own home page with a number of good planetary summaries included in it.

  5. Sciences/Astronomy/Our.Solar.System/Uranus/ A lot of teachers swear by NASA's Spacelink web page. It has actual curriculum materials directly usable in the classroom, but less detailed information on the planets than the other four.

(4) on NEPTUNE, Planet Advocate HEIDI HAMMEL suggests:

"What a way to leave the Solar System," Science News 136, 148 (1989).
"Neptune and Triton: worlds apart," Sky & Telescope V.79, #2, 136 (1990).
"Jupiter's Red Spot & Neptune's Dark Spot," Sky & Tel. V.80, #4, 361 (1990).
"Neptune's weather," Science News 142, 286 (1992).
"Neptune's northern half grows brighter," Science News 144, 287 (1993).
"Repaired Hubble views two outer planets," Science News 146, 312 (1994).
"Hubble's world's: Neptune," Sky & Telescope V.89, #2, 25 (1995).


From: (Jan Wee): Welcome to discuss-hst!

Dear discuss-hst folks,

I am Jan Wee, your moderator. You have just today received messages from our Executive Producer, Geoff Haines-Stiles, encouraging you to begin the very exciting process we refer to as the "Great Planet Debate." We have four very enthusiastic and knowledgable scientists on board to help us as a forum come to consensus as to which planet(s) the Hubble Space Telescope will focus upon in upcoming orbits!

I am here as your moderator to help guide discussion, keeping us focused on the business at hand and reminding people (like *myself*) to avoid the personal and unrelated postings from this list. I am hoping that you will take time to introduce yourself and your class/students with an introductory paragraph or two. Tell us about your students, your school, your interest in the Hubble Space Telescope, anything you might like to share! It is always more fun to know your cyberspace partners and this is the right time to begin the introductions!

If you choose to remain a "lurker" that is fine and you are most welcome. We know that many folks on listservs would rather take a more reserved stance and "watch the action." Someday, though, I hope you will share your presence and your input! What makes a forum like this rich and rewarding is EACH and EVERY person partaking in the discussion! We all have much to offer in terms of our diverse perspectives and ideas. Astronomers, please introduce yourselves, and feel at home! It is very exciting to know that we have such expertise to help us debate our ideas! A special welcome to you as my co-moderators!

I should let you know just a bit more about myself.... I am a middle school educator who is both the LMC Director and the techno-geek at my school, West Salem Middle School, located on the western edge of mid-Wisconsin just 14 miles east of LaCrosse. It is a great little town of 3800 people, but winters are grey and cold and only the hardiest love the snow and cold.

I have served as the online moderator for both the Live From Antarctica and the Live From the Stratosphere projects. My expertise (if I have one besides making errant postings.... :-( ) is my strong K-12 Internet background. I have been involved with integrating the Internet for seven years. I hope my background can help anyone who has specific questions and needs. I even have a web page for sharing my favorite K-12 Resources and web sites. Please visit:

Please begin posting your introductions and also share any classroom activities related to this debate... others will want to know how you are facilitating this process in the classroom!

And let the "Great Debate" begin!

Jan Wee, discuss-hst moderator


From: Geoff Haines-Stiles : Re: Great Planet Debate schedule

On Fri, 24 Nov 1995, Diane Smith wrote:

> Has anyone read a schedule for the re-showing of this program? I would like
> to see it and missed it on November 15. Thanks!
> Diane R. Smith
> Seattle, WA


Nov 28 Tues
1. LTL: From Undersea to Outer Space (15:00)
2. Global Quest (12:00)
3. Live From the Hubble Space Telescope #1: The Great Planet Debate (30:00)





From: (Jan Wee): LFHST Web Page, reminders, etc.

Dear discuss-hst members,

Did you know that we are over 150 members strong! Yes, and we have international representation in this discussion forum. Welcome aboard to everyone. I just took a close-up look at our membership and it is very impressive.... several educators who participated in Live From the Stratosphere, members of the scientific community, members of the Passport to Knowledge team, and many members whose email addresses are new to me. Please take a few minutes and introduce yourselves.

Our Live From the Hubble Space Telescope web page is found at:

You will find that Marc Siegel and the team from NASA Quest have developed an extensive resource for students, teachers, and all interested in this unique collaboration. (Great job, Marc!!!)

Included in our web page:

You can even subscribe to our updates-hst email list via our web site, if you have a web browser that supports forms. (You can also send an email directly to and in the message body, write: subscribe updates-hst)

I hope that teachers have downloaded the information on the Planet Advocates, our special guests (Prof. Reta Beebe--Jupiter, Dr. Marc Buie--Pluto, Prof. Heidi Hammel--Neptune, and Prof. Carolyn Porco--Uranus) and shared (or plan to share) this information with your students. Please let me know if you are not able to retrieve these files and I will gladly forward them your way. (Send a personal email to :

These background files will help your students get acquainted with our special guests!



Don't forget that The Great Planet Debate (30 minutes) broadcast will be air on NASA-TV TOMORROW.... TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28th at the times indicated below:

1-2 pm 4-5 pm 7-8 pm 10-11 pm 1-2 am All times Eastern

NASA TV broadcasts on Spacenet-2, C-Band, T5, Ch. 9, 69#161# W, 3880 MHz, horizontal polarization, audio 6.8 MHz.

NASA TV may pre-emt scheduled programming for live agency events.

For up-to-date information, be sure to check the NASA-TV schedule at this address:

(Sorry, but that is a long URL!)

Suggestion for those without access to satellite feeds:

You might contact a nearby university, technical college, hospital, etc... anyone with a dish that would be willing to record the program for you. Many teachers have done this in the past and met with great success and lots of support.



We only have 17 days to come to consensus about our planet choice(s) and research suggestions. You are invited.... each and everyone, each and every classroom, to post your comments, suggestions, voice your opinion or your vote.

Please introduce yourselves and share what is happening in your classroom(s) related to this goal. If you are someone other than a classroom teacher or student, please feel welcome to participate and share your input!

Jan Wee, discuss-hst moderator


From: Todd Pearce : Introduction and Planet Selection

Hi, Jan!

I am Todd Pearce, an Advanced Systems Engineer (computer programmer) at Electronic Data Systems, Inc., Plano, TX. I have always had an interest in the sciences, space in particular. I am 44 years old and grew up in Las Cruces, NM. I attended New Mexico State University, home of Dr. Clyde Tombaugh. For this reason, I guess I am a little prejudiced in favor of the planet Pluto. White Sands Missle Range, a major facility in the development of the space program, was also another influence. The whole area around Las Cruces has been involved in space exploration and research in one way or another. I almost took an astronomy class at NMSU but I was more interested in getting as many computer science classes as I could. I was also warned by friends who had taken Astronomy 101, taught by Dr. Tombaugh, that he talked 100 mph, all of it good information, and unless I was willing to spend many hours outside of class studying and researching the material then I shouldn't take the class. I couldn't, so I didn't. I have been a sideline player ever since.

I want to participate in this project but will try to keep a lower profile since this is primarily an activity for teachers and their students. I want the students to be the driving force so their interest in astronomy and space may be kindled. I will periodically give input but expect it to be of minor influence.

I think these "Live From..." activities are terrific and wish I they had been available when I was a young student. And Jan, I wish you luck as the moderator. I hope that there is so much participation that you need two or three additional moderators to keep up with it. That would mean the project is working. 8{)

So, for my selection for HST exploration.....
Personally, I would like to see Pluto since it is the planet furthest from the sun and the one with the least chance for study. My next choice is Uranus for similar reasons.

I guess the best would be Jupiter since it is the most exciting and mysterious of all the available choices. It would probably attract more interest from the average student whereas the outer planets would be interesting primarily to astronomy "geeks".

I'm glad I'm not making the final decisions!!! 8{)


From: a RE-introduction

Greetings to the Discuss-HST Group:

My introduction may be a repeat for those of you who participated in LIVE FROM THE STRATOSPHERE... I was, however, a fairly silent participant of discuss-lfs because I was BUSY organizing my middle school to implement a school-wide interdisciplinary unit on astronomy (using the LSF materials as our basic guide) and EVEN BUSIER with the myriad of DETAILS necessary to taking the entire school to Liberty Science Center here in NJ and being a LIVE UPLINK site. It was a tremendous experience (THANKS, GHS PRODUCTIONS) but I must admit to a SLIGHT feeling of relief that LFS is behind us.

So what are we up to now?? My plans for LfHST are still in development stage. I will participate with my 100 sixth graders and I am hopeful that my school's eighth grade will also choose to participate (astronomy is part of their Earth Science curriculum and their maturity as learners make them excellent candidates for the interactivity of LfHST). Anyway, I'm busy networking...

During the next two weeks, I plan to have discussions and debates in my five science classes, hopefully leading to consensus in the choice of planets for study. The students will have the PLANET INFO sheets available and I'll encourage them to do some research on the BIG FOUR PLANETS themselves. If no consensus (which is quite likely), then I'll group the kids by planet choice and have each group draft an email message with their reasons for their selection. These will be sent to the PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE team by December 15th. At that point, I'll resume my current science unit, await the arrival of the LfHST teacher's guide, and plan the next step!!

Fellow teachers, please share your ideas and plans - I know we'll all benefit. And non-teachers/science co-conspirators, please let us know who you are and what you do; somehow we may draw you into this educational adventure with our students!

Pat Haddon
Grade 6
Summit Middle School
Summit, New Jersey


From: Ginny Dexter : Re: Great Planet Debate schedule

I set up the NASA station today to 10:30 Western which I am assuming is 1:30 PM Eastern and taped for over an hour but didn't see it aired...Did anyone else catch it..I was so excited when I saw the time as it would of been during my science class...Thanks, Ginny

On Sat, 25 Nov 1995, Geoff Haines-Stiles wrote:

> On Fri, 24 Nov 1995, Diane Smith wrote:
> > Has anyone read a schedule for the re-showing of this program? I would like
> > to see it and missed it on November 15. Thanks!
> > Diane R. Smith
> > Seattle, WA
> >
> >
> Nov 28 Tues
> 1. LTL: From Undersea to Outer Space (15:00)
> 2. Global Quest (12:00)
> 3. Live From the Hubble Space Telescope #1: The Great Planet Debate
> (30:00)
> 13:30 EASTERN, WITH REPEATS AT 16:30, 19:30, 22:30 AND 01:30. BUT
Ginny Dexter


From: "Donna O'Callaghan" : Introduction

Hello. I am a 6th grade science teacher from a middle school in Alpharetta, GA, which is about 20 miles north of Atlanta. I did the Live from Antarctica field trip last year, and loved it so much that I couldn't wait for the Live from the Stratosphere trip this year. We're looking forward to Live from the Hubble in the spring. We have been very busy working on putting information on-line for others to look at. We still have much work to do, but we're getting started. You can view our home page at

My team of 4 teachers will be going to the Georgia State Middle School convention in February to present the Live from the Stratosphere project. I have had a hard time finding the time to join in the discussion, but time is getting close for the decision on the planet chosen for the Hubble program. I have been reading the information from the 4 astronomers who are the planet advocates to my classes and they are looking up information on the web. They will each turn in their choice on Friday, and by next week I will have the results to send in. Hope to hear from all of you soon.

Donna O'Callaghan, 6th Grade Science Teacher
Taylor Road Middle School
Alpharetta, GA


From: "Jake Chaput (Arlington Elementary)" : Hubble plans

Hi Everyone,

My class, parents, other teachers, and myself had a fantastic experience with the Live from the Stratosphere project. We will be very active for the Hubble Project. We will be doing our voting next week as a culmination of our astronomy unit. I'll use the information from the various astronomers to help them make their decisions. I hope to have a fully integrated science, math, local history unit ready for the Hubble project.I plan to use the home of Samuel F.B. Morse for the live part of the project. The museum people are thrilled with us being there. We will use the telegraph keys, ham radios, Morse Code, etc. as we compare the past with the present and study about our local history in the process. The local astronomy club will have the members bring their telescopes for our use on a high hill overlooking the majestic Hudson River. We will be building our own telegraph keys using kits and experience the progress from telegraph to satellite. I am running around to find someone to donate a dish that we can use at the Morse Estate. This video from NASA has not been easy to get. I had someone from our BOCES site download it yesterday but from what I read on this discussion group today maybe it wasn't telecast. We are not in school today because of snow storm in the area so I don't know if I have the initial video. Many teachers from my area are interested in joining me this time around. I had very good coverage from two local newspapers and have video of the event also. I have been too busy to send copies but will try to send the newspaper clipping at least. Where do I send snail mail? Jake


From: (Jan Wee): Thanks for posting!

Jake and discuss-hst,

Just want to say thank you for your posting today. You were a very active member of discuss-lfs and having you involved again is a real bonus.

If you would like to send snail mail, here is the address:

Passport to Knowledge
PO Box 1502
Summit, New Jersey 07902-1502

This is the address for sending materials to Geoff Haines-Stiles, our Executive Producer. I know he will appreciate receiving materials covering the LFS events or HST events.

To all:

We hope that "The Great Planet Debate" will be re-broadcast via NASA-TV. I, too, had my satellite dish pointing at NASA-TV on Tuesday and to no avail, the program did not air, although it was in the schedule posted at Spacelink. I will try to find out if it will be airing again and post this information to the list. Those of you with web or gopher access, can connect with NASA Spacelink and check under the Educational Resources link/menu item for the updated NASA-TV schedule. (gopher to same address)

Marc Siegel (NASA Ames) and I will be off to Tel-Ed, the national conference on Telecommunications in Education held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this week. We present the Passport to Knowledge project on Saturday at 11:00am. Wish us good luck. This is the conference where the word spread to folks like Marilyn Wall and so many others who joined us for Live From the Stratosphere. I am sure we will have email access, but just in case you do not hear from us, please continue introducing yourselves and sharing your classroom plans, yours and your students' input about planet choices.

Have to run and do my lesson plans before I leave for Florida! :-)

Jan Wee, discuss-hst moderator


From: FRITZ : Intro, and looking for email and proshare partners

Hello everybody. My name is Matthew Fritz, and I am a teacher at Crest Memorial School in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. I will be trying to get my two seventh grade sections involved in the HST project. I plan to introduce the project this week with videos about the HST and planets being considered. The students will be doing some research on the planets and we will post our ideas here next week.

We would very much like to discuss this important decision with other students through either email or proshare videoconferencing. If you are interested, please contact me at:

The Great Planet Debate: I recorded NASA-TV from 3 pm to 8:30 pm yesterday and the debate was not shown! Does anybody know when it will be broadcast again?

Matt Fritz


From: "Ruth Wahl" : Introduction

We're from the Allegany-Limestone School District in Western New York State near the Pennsylvania border. We're using the Great Planet Debate as part of a Regents Earth Science class for 8th grade advanced students and 9th grade students.

We've discussed the planets in class, but will cover an astronomy chapter in greater depth in the spring - about the time the actual viewing of the planets with the Hubble Telescope will take place.

We're undecided about which planet or planets it should be, but we're leaning towards Neptune, Uranus, or Pluto.

Ruth Wahl
Earth Science Teacher
Allegany-Limestone High School
Allegany, NY 14706


From: (Patricia Gosda): Intro. and video problem


I am a middle school library media specialist in Niskayuna, NY. I am working on the Hubble project with four classes of 6th graders. We are beginning our discussions of the merits of the four planets. We are hoping to view the first video but so far have had no success taping it from our high school satellite dish. Every time we think it will be broadcast, something else seems to be on. Does anyone know when it will be shown on NASA TV again? We would very much like to see it during out discussion periods.

Patricia Gosda (


From: Which planet to send HST.

I think they should send Hubble to Pluto because it is so far away. Because of the distance we do not know that much about it. We would learn a lot more about Pluto if we sent it there. Thanks,


From:FRITZ :Students are excited

I introduced my seventh grade students to the HST. We viewed the end of a NOVA episode "Rescue in Space" about the repair of the HST. They could really relate to the difficulties involved because last year that "flew" on a simulated space shuttle mission at the Buehler Challenger Center. At the end of the video they saw the excitement of the astronomers back on Earth when the first pictures came back from the newly repaired HST. They have already begun debating which planet to select. Tomorrow I will introduce the planets in some detail and they will read what the planet advocates have said. I hope to be able to post our ideas about the selection early next week.

Some of my students are very excited about observing Pluto since it has been studied least. I know Pluto has an eccentric orbit that carries it closer to earth during part of its revolution. Can anyone confirm for me that Pluto is currently slightly closer to the Earth than Neptune? I know this was the case a few years ago, but I don't know if this is still true. Thanks,

Matt Fritz