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Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Dan Duke, wearing an inflatable T-Rex suit, dives into the water in Upper Lake Mary on New Year's Day during the 2018 Flagstaff Polar Plunge.

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Flagstaff's first baby of 2018 an 'Emmie winner

Cydney Shaum and her husband Taylor Dustin smiled a weary smile at their 6 pound 5 ounce baby girl, Emmie Jean Dustin. It was the couple’s first child and the first baby born in 2018.

Emmie was born in Flagstaff Medical Center at 12:35 a.m. on New Year’s Day, after 12 hours of what Shaum called “relatively painless labor.”

The couple started to believe they would have a New Year’s Day baby around 11:15 p.m. on Sunday night.

“It was definitely on our mind that we could have a New Year’s baby. We thought a Jan. 1, 2018 birthday sounded better than Jan. 6,” Dustin said referring to Emmie’s expected birthday.

Dustin said he and the nurses on staff tried to guess the times the baby would be born.

“No one guessed midnight,” Dustin said with a smile.

The couple was thrilled when they learned they had a baby girl because both parents decided not to know the gender until the baby was born.

“It was hard for me not to know, but I am glad we didn’t know the gender. We couldn’t be happier to have a baby girl.”

Dustin said not knowing their new daughter’s gender made her birth even more special.

“I have always loved surprises and I couldn’t think of a better surprise than this,” Dustin said.

Emmie’s father was even there to catch his daughter and be the first person to usher her into the world.

“Catching my daughter as she was born was a once in a lifetime experience,” Dustin said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

The couple looked at their sleeping baby with excitement as they talked about her features and looked forward to little quirks they may discover as they get to know Emmie.

“She has little dimples on her cheeks,” Shaum said. “We are still getting to know her and I can’t wait to learn other things about her.”

Emmie's birth in Flagstaff makes her a fifth-generation Flagstaff resident and her mother said she couldn’t think of a better place to raise a child.

“I was born in Flagstaff and I think this is an amazing place to start our family,”

Shaum said that they were excited to bring their child into the world at the start of 2018, despite many of their friends choosing not to have kids right now.

“I think having a baby in 2018 can be overwhelming for a lot of people,” Shaum said. “Some of our friends and family have decided to wait to have kids because they don’t feel comfortable with the current climate. We are excited though and ready to start our family.”

As Shaum looked at her baby she reflected on the future. “I have a lot of fears but I try not to dwell on them,” Shaum said. “We are trying not to dwell on them though and just look toward the future.”

One other baby was born at Flagstaff Medical Center on New Year's Day.


Fitness resolutions can quickly turn to drudgery if you put too much pressure on yourself.

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Flagstaff astronomer prepares New Horizons to look beyond Pluto

In the outer reaches of our solar system, NASA’s New Horizons space probe is currently sailing away from Earth at an average velocity of 36,373 mph. It has already completed its primary objective, sending back detailed images of Pluto and its moon Charon during its historic 2015 flyby.

The probe is now set to explore other objects in the Kuiper Belt. This belt covers a vast region of space beyond Neptune and is home to millions of icy bodies left over from the formation of the planets.

NASA has announced that the probe’s next target will be 2014 MU69, a mysterious, irregularly shaped celestial body about 16 miles long and a billion miles away from Pluto. The nametag stems from it being first observed by the Hubble telescope in the year 2014. If the mission is successful, MU69 will be the farthest object ever visited by a spacecraft.

Will Grundy is a key member of the New Horizons project. He is the leader of the surface composition theme team, based out of the Lowell Observatory here in Flagstaff. He hopes that a close-up view of MU69 will provide scientists with clues as to how the solar system came to exist today, particularly the planets that share the same chemical compounds as the object.

“These are the building blocks of the outer planets,” he said. “We don’t know a whole lot about that process yet because it happened four and a half billion years ago. And until now, we’ve never been able get a close enough look at one of these objects.”

The flyby will bring New Horizons within 2,200 miles of MU69. Imaging equipment aboard the probe will provide scientists with more clarity about the surface composition and geology of the object, revealing whether the object has traces of frozen water, ammonia, methane or carbon monoxide -- the same elements that constitute the outer planets. Scientists will then also look for evidence of any elusive moons or rings that might be in orbit.

The longevity of the project hinges upon the new data being transmitted back to Earth. Every adjustment of New Horizon’s trajectory consumes precious fuel. For that reason, Grundy explained that the team has to be precise when choosing which bodies are worth taking a closer look at.

“By good fortune, MU69 happens to be almost on a collision course with the spacecraft already,” he said. “So we diverted the spacecraft ever so slightly so that it would fly past close enough for study.”

The flyby is set to be on January 1st of 2019. Anyone interested in tracking New Horizon’s progress will be able to follow the craft’s voyage at