University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Karlis Kaufmanis Lecture

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics

Dr. Michael Brown

Professor of Planetary Astronomy
California Institute of Technology


How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

Thursday April 12, 2012 at 7:30pm
Tate Laboratory of Physics, Room 150
116 Church St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455


The solar system most of us grew up with included nine planets, with Mercury closest to the sun and Pluto at the outer edge. Then, in 2005, astronomer Michael Brown made the discovery of a lifetime: a tenth planet, Eris, slightly bigger than Pluto. But instead of adding one more planet to our solar system, Brown's find ignited a firestorm of controversy that culminated in the demotion of Pluto from real planet to the newly coined category of "dwarf" planet. Suddenly Brown was receiving hate mail from schoolchildren and being bombarded by TV reporters—all because of the discovery he had spent years searching for and a lifetime dreaming about.

A heartfelt and personal journey filled with both humor and drama, "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming" is for anyone, young or old, who has ever imagined exploring the universe—and who among us hasn't?


Dr. Michael Brown is the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology. In 2006 he was named one of Time magazine's 100 People Who Shape Our World. He has authored over 100 scientific papers, and at Caltech he teaches undergraduate and graduate students in classes ranging from introductory geology to the formation and evolution of the solar system.

About the Kaufmanis Lecture Series

The Kaufmanis Lecture is presented in memory of beloved Professor of Astronomy Karlis Kaufmanis. One of the U's greatest teachers, he taught more than 26,000 students and is often remembered for his popular "Star of Bethlehem" lectures. Professor Kaufmanis' enthusiasm for astronomy affected everyone who came into contact with him. The Kaufmanis Lecture Series brings distinguished scientists to the campus to provide public lectures on the latest hot topics in research.

In conjunction with this year's Kaufmanis Lecture, we are pleased to announce the formation of the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics. Replacing the former Department of Astronomy, the new Institute brings together 24 faculty members of the School of Physics and Astronomy conducting research in astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, planetary science, and space science under a unified association of scientists.

Campus Parking

Information about public parking at the U of M (Parking and Transportation Services)

Map of the East Bank Campus


Flyer 1: Abstract and Biography

Flyer 2: Letter from Robert Gehrz, Director of the Institute

Mike Brown's website at CalTech