American Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh was best known for discovering Pluto and many asteroids but a lot of us didn’t know he also called for the serious scientific research into UFO’s. Born in 1906 in Streator Illinois Cyde went from building his own telescopes to being employed at the infamous Lowell Observatory which offered him a job after he sent in hand drawn pictures of Jupiter and Mars. During his years at Lowell Observatory, Tombaugh discovered hundreds of new variable stars, hundreds of new asteroids and two comets. He found new star clusters, clusters of galaxies including one super cluster of galaxies. In all, he counted over 29,000 galaxies. Tombaugh remained at Lowell until he was called to service during World War II.From 1955 until his retirement in 1973, Clyde Tombaugh was on the faculty at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
Clyde Tombaugh was best known for discovering Pluto and many asteroids but a lot of us didn’t know he also called for the serious scientific research into UFO’s. He is one of the most prolific astronomers to see and request further investigation into UFO’s. After 11 years of poring through endless photographic plates using the blinking process, Tombaugh claims he had a UFO sighting on August 20, 1949. He also claims these changed his opinion of the phenomenon in a matter of minutes. He had three different sightings-without the use of an optical aid- and claimed the following:
“I have seen three objects in the last seven years which defied any explanation of known phenomenon, such as Venus, atmospheric
optic, meteors or planes. I am a professional, highly skilled, professional astronomer. In addition I have seen three green fireballs which were unusual in behavior from normal green fireballs…I think that several reputable scientists are being unscientific in refusing to entertain the possibility of extra-terrestrial origin and nature.”
In June 1952, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer acting as a scientific consultant to the Air Force’s Project Blue Book UFO study, secretly conducted a survey of fellow astronomers on UFO sightings and attitudes while attending an astronomy convention. Tombaugh and four other astronomers, including Dr. Lincoln LaPaz of the University of New Mexico, told Hynek about their sightings. Tombaugh also told Hynek that his telescopes were at The Air Force’s disposal for taking photos of UFOs, if he was properly alerted. Tombaugh’s offer may have led to his involvement in a search for near-Earth satellites which were first announced in the winter of 1953.
However, according to Donald Keyhoe, later director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, the real reason for the sudden search was because two near-Earth orbiting objects had been picked up on new long-range radar in the summer of 1953, according to his Pentagon source. By May 1954, Keyhoe was making public statements that his sources told him the search had indeed been successful, and either one or two objects had been found. However, the story did not break until August 23, 1954, when Aviation Week magazine stated that two satellites had been found only 400 and 600 miles out. They were termed “natural satellites” and implied that they had been recently captured, despite this being a virtual impossibility. The next day, the story was in many major newspapers. Dr. LaPaz was implicated in the discovery in addition to Tombaugh. LaPaz had earlier conducted secret investigations on behalf of the Air Force on the green fireballs and other unidentified aerial phenomena over New Mexico. The New York Times reported on August 29 that “a source close to the O. O. R. unit here described as ‘quite accurate’ the report in the magazine Aviation Week that two previously unobserved satellites had been spotted and identified by Dr. Lincoln Lepaz of the University of New Mexico as natural and not artificial objects. This source also said there was absolutely no connection between the reported satellites and flying saucer reports. However, in the October 10th issue, LaPaz said the magazine article was “false in every particular, in so far as reference to me is concerned.” Both LaPaz and Tombaugh were to issue public denials that anything had been found. The October 1955 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine reported: “Professor Tombaugh is closemouthed about his results. He won’t say whether or not any small natural satellites have been discovered. He does say, however, that newspaper reports of 18 months ago announcing the discovery of natural satellites at 400 and 600 miles out are not correct. He adds that there is no connection between the search program and the reports of so-called flying saucers.”
At a meteor conference in Los Angeles in 1957, Tombaugh reiterated that his four-year search for “natural satellites” had been unsuccessful. In 1959, Tombaugh was to issue a final report stating that nothing had been found in his search. His personal 16-inch telescope was reassembled and dedicated on September 17, 2009 at Rancho Hidalgo, New Mexico (near Animas, New Mexico), adjacent to Astronomy’s new observatory.