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Overachievers - July 10, 2015

(Photos Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society /

Q: When this man discovered Pluto in 1930, another Kansan was serving as Vice President of the United States. Can you name both of these high-achieving Kansans?


A: Clyde Tombaugh and Charles Curtis

Few people can say they discovered a planet. But Clyde Tombaugh, of Burdett, Kan., was one who could. He spotted Pluto in 1930 while working at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.

That same year, another Kansan was also making news. Charles Curtis grew up near Topeka speaking Indian languages before he learned English. By 1930, he was serving as Vice President of the United States, the first Native American to hold such a high office.

But let’s get back to Clyde Tombaugh. He discovered lots of out-of-this-world stuff, but he’s best known as the man who put Pluto on the map of the Milky Way. Even though it was demoted to “dwarf planet” status a few years ago, the former 9th planet of our solar system is still spinning through space, billions of miles from Earth. So many things about Pluto are, well… a little odd. It has an unusual orbit. It’s smaller than Earth’s moon and yet it has at least three moons of its own. And one of its moons is about half the size of Pluto itself. Pluto is strange, cold and distant. But 2015 is “The Year of Pluto” and this month the almost-planet will come into better view than ever before. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly by Pluto on July 14 and send back the best pictures we’ve ever seen of the icy orb.

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