July 2015: The inside story of Pluto

This month’s Astronomy magazine gets readers primed for the New Horizons Pluto flyby with an inside story from the spacecraft’s principal investigator, Alan Stern. We also show readers how to hunt the last planet from their backyards, delve into death plunge asteroids, learn about lunar rays, and take a trip to the best astronomy-themed vacation sites.
By | Published: May 26, 2015 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
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WAUKESHA, Wis. — Humanity’s first views of the last planet will stream in from the solar system frontier in July, and Astronomy has all the details readers need to know about the historic encounter. In this month’s issue, New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern recounts how Pluto went from a faraway footnote to the centerpiece of NASA’s quest to understand our solar system’s formation and evolution.

Stern has been at the forefront of efforts to visit Pluto for nearly three decades, and he traces the many discoveries that pushed Pluto to its place as a giant in the kingdom of the dwarfs. The story also features the incredible illustrations of Ron Miller, whose official Pluto postage stamp is attached to the spacecraft.

To preview all New Horizons’ historic encounter will offer, pick up the July issue of Astronomy magazine, on newsstands June 2.

Hunt the last planet  
As Pluto comes to prominence in the public psyche, the far-off world will also reach its brightest place in the night sky. Astronomy Senior Editor Richard Talcott guides backyard observers to the dim dot as Pluto reaches opposition on July 6. Fittingly, the best views come in the week around New Horizons’ Pluto flyby during New Moon.

In search of death plunge asteroids
In an alternate world envisioned by famed physicist and asteroid hunter Mark Boslough, astronomers could have prepared all night for the Chelyabinsk fireball that hit Russia in 2013. In July’s issue, the astronomer imagines the science and safety that could be achieved by finding space rocks before they strike. Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart joins Boslough in his call for planetary defense with a column aptly titled “In defense of Earth.”

Vacation with the stars
Summer hits its stride in July, and veteran observer Tom Trusock has readers covered with some great astronomer travel ideas. From an ancient city aligned with the heavens in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, to California’s Mount Wilson Observatory, home to the largest telescopes in the world devoted solely to public viewing, there’s a vacation opportunity to suite all interests and budgets.

July sky events visible without optical aid

  • July 1 — Jupiter and brilliant Venus stand side by side at twilight.
  • July 9 — Venus gleams at its best in Northern Hemisphere evening skies.
  • July 30 — The Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower peaks.

Also in the July 2015 Astronomy

About Astronomy magazine:
Astronomy offers you the most exciting, visually stunning, thorough, and timely coverage of the heavens above. Each monthly issue includes expert science reporting, vivid color photography, complete sky-event coverage, spot-on observing tips, informative equipment reviews, and more. All of this comes in an easy-to-understand user-friendly style that’s perfect for astronomers at any level. Contact Astronomy, the world’s best-selling astronomy magazine, at 262.796.8776 or email editor@astronomy.com.