02/17/2006 08:00:00

Watson Lecture: The 10th Planet

PASADENA, Calif.- In 2005, after seven years scanning half the sky for planets in our solar system beyond Pluto and discovering dozens of large new objects, Michael E. Brown and his colleagues finally found 2003 UB313, aka "Xena," the first object larger than Pluto, and the first that might be called a new planet.

The discovery of 2003 UB313 inspired "a new avalanche of scientific questions," says Brown, professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology. Perhaps more importantly for planetary science, it forced into the spotlight the lingering debate over what constitutes a planet.

On Wednesday, February 22, Brown will discuss the discovery of 2003 UB313 and the planet controversy. "By the end of the talk, listeners will know if 2003 UB313 is a planet, what a planet is and how to find one, and how many more planets might be hiding out there," he says. His talk, "Beyond Pluto: Discovery of the 10th Planet," is the first program of the Winter/Spring 2006 Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series.

The talk will take place at 8 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium, 332 S. Michigan Avenue south of Del Mar Boulevard, on the Caltech campus in Pasadena. Seating is available on a free, no-ticket-required, first-come, first-served basis. Caltech has offered the Watson Lecture Series since 1922, when it was conceived by the late Caltech physicist Earnest Watson as a way to explain science to the local community.

Upcoming lectures in the Winter/Spring 2006 series include

o Dianne K. Newman, associate professor of geobiology and environmental science and engineering, Caltech, and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, on "Bacterial Biofilms: Far More Than a Collection of Germs," April 12.

o R. Preston McAfee, J. Stanley Johnson Professor of Business Economics and Management and Executive Officer for the Social Sciences, Caltech, on "Why Are Prices So Bizarre?," May 3.

o Paul H. Patterson, Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences, Caltech, on "Can One Make a Mouse Model of Mental Illness, and Why Try?," May 17.

For more information, call 1(888) 2CALTECH (1-888-222-5832) or (626) 395-4652.

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Contact: Kathy Svitil (626) 395-8022 ksvitil@caltech.edu

Visit the Caltech Media Relations website at: http://pr.caltech.edu/media

Written by Kathy Svitil