MIT scientist to discuss Pluto, New Horizons mission on March 2

Published: Feb 16, 2018 7:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Chris Anthony,, 334.844.3447

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Richard Binzel will visit Auburn University on March 2 to discuss NASA’s recent findings on the dwarf planet Pluto.

Research using motion-capture technology is shown.
Richard Binzel

Binzel’s talk, “Pluto revealed! Latest results from NASA’s New Horizons mission,” will be held at 9 a.m. in room 2510 of the Mell Classroom Building. Refreshments will be served at the talk. 

“Dr. Binzel is one of the world’s foremost experts on the study of Pluto and asteroids. We look forward to welcoming him to Auburn and letting the campus community hear his insights on Pluto and the New Horizons mission,” said Brian Thurow, chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

The New Horizons mission launched in January 2006 and reached the Pluto system in July 2015, revealing a bizarre world with towering ice mountains and smooth plains of frozen methane stretching hundreds of miles. The New Horizons spacecraft is expected to continue its mission out of our solar system to explore a recently discovered Kuiper Belt object in 2019.

A member of the MIT faculty for 30 years, Binzel holds a joint appointment in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He was an original member of "Pluto Underground," a group of scientists and engineers that began planning and seeking approval for a spacecraft mission to Pluto in the 1980s.

Binzel’s work has formed the scientific foundations for five NASA flight missions. His predictions regarding the asteroid Itokawa were proven correct by the Japanese Hayabusa asteroid mission, noted by Science Magazine as one of the Top Ten Breakthroughs of 2011. For his accomplishments, Binzel was awarded NASA’s Silver Achievement medal in 2017, the second highest honor NASA bestows upon civilian scientists.