As NASA’s New Horizons Mission continues to barrel toward Pluto, Flagstaff will kick off its own Year of Pluto celebrations with a public presentation by New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern.

Stern will speak at the Orpheum Theatre Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $10 for general admission to $25 for a pre-program meet and greet with Stern.

Tickets can be purchased at www.orpheumflagstaff.com.

In addition to heading the $727 million New Horizons mission, Stern leads the research and development efforts at the Southwest Research Institute’s Space Science and Engineering Division in Boulder, Colo. He has participated in 24 planetary science missions and served as NASA’s top-ranking official for science from 2007 to 2008. In 2007, Time listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

“It’s quite an opportunity to hear the leader of the entire New Horizons team tell us about the mission,” Lowell Director Jeff Hall said in a news release. “It takes an enormous amount of dedication and perseverance to pull off a project like this, and what better place to hear about it than in Pluto’s hometown.”

Other upcoming Year of Pluto activities include a special Pluto exhibit at Lowell Observatory that opens March 13, an April presentation by Lowell astronomer Gerard van Belle about the planetary status of Pluto and a walking tour planned for May 2 that will retrace Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s steps on the day he discovered the dwarf planet.

The mission is set to reach its closest point to Pluto on July 14 -- Bastille Day.

Emery Cowan can be reached at (928) 556-2250 or ecowan@azdailysun.com

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Emery Cowan writes about science, health and the environment for the Arizona Daily Sun, covering everything from forest restoration to endangered species recovery efforts.

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