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Astronomer Michael Brown to discuss ‘Planet Nine from Outer Space’ March 23

By Ellen Gwin Burnette

BOONE, N.C.—The Morgan Lecture Series of Science will host Dr. Michael Brown, a solar-system astronomer and professor of planetary astronomy from California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He will give a free, public lecture titled “Planet Nine from Outer Space” on Thursday, March 23, at 6:45 p.m., in the Blue Ridge Ballroom of the Plemmons Student Union.

View larger imageDr. Michael Brown, professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech, will offer both a free public lecture and a technical talk during his visit to Appalachian on March 23 as part of the Morgan Lecture Series. The events are titled “Planet Nine from Outer Space” and “Tales from the Outer Solar System,” respectively. Photo courtesy of Dr. Michael Brown.View PDF (1.74M)Download poster (PDF 1.74M)

The Morgan Lecture Series in the Sciences was created by an endowment from the G. William Morgan Family. Additional sponsors for this event are the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“Recent evidence suggests that a massive body is lurking at the outskirts of our solar system, far beyond the orbits of the known giant planets. This object, at a distance approximately 20 times further than Neptune and with a mass approximately 5,000 times larger than Pluto, is the real ninth planet of the solar system,” Brown said.

He will discuss the observation that led to the evidence for Planet Nine and how so massive an object could have been hiding in the outer solar system for so long, as well as the international effort to pinpoint this newest member of our planetary family.

Brown’s memoir, “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming,” is on the discovery of Eris and the reclassification of Pluto. It is an award-winning best seller.

Brown will also give a technical talk in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, as well as meet with students, during his visit March 23 from 2 to 3:15 p.m., in Garwood Hall Room 112. His talk will be on “Tales from the Outer Solar System.” He will discuss the discoveries and new views of giant collisions, stellar encounters and planetary rearrangements that are being identified through research and study.

“The past few years have seen an explosion in the discoveries of Pluto and nearby Pluto-sized bodies in the outer solar system, giving rise to a new classification of “dwarf planets,” stated Brown. “Like Pluto, each of these largest dwarf planets has a unique story to tell about the history and evolution of the solar system.”

For more about Brown, visit his website at For information about other College of Arts and Sciences events, visit To support speakers and events on campus, visit

About the Morgan Science Lecture Series

The Morgan Science Lecture Series was established with a gift from the G. William Morgan Family. Morgan was a 1934 graduate of Appalachian and a health physicist with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The series stimulates scientific understanding and research among the sciences by bringing researchers to campus. Previous speakers include David Suzuki, award-winning geneticist and broadcaster, evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould, population ecologist Paul Ehrlich, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and oceanographer and underwater archaeologist Robert Ballard.

About Appalachian

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.