Speaker

Dr Michael Brown

Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology

Dr Michael Brown is an American astronomer, and is the Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), a position he has held since 2003. Dr Brown leads a team that scours the outer reaches of the Solar System for trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). They have discovered a number of dwarf planets, one of which exceeds the size of Pluto, named Eris. In fact having discovered Eris, it was Brown who in effect sealed the fate of Pluto being downgraded from planet status to dwarf. Dr Brown made a joint prediction that a planet, named ‘Planet Nine’, exists on the fringes of the Solar System, positioned so far out that it takes around 20,000 years to complete one revolution of the Sun. He made it his mission to find a planet to replace the one he killed off, in part at the request of his young daughter, and also because of the uproar he created within the space enthusiast community, most of whom had been brought up on a Solar System with nine planets. In 2010 he authored a book entitled ‘How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming’.