Extreme patience while on approach to something great takes on fresh meaning when you're New Horizons. But when you're a sophisticated spacecraft designed for long flight, a near-decade of cosmic travel is pretty much akin to a human hour spent driving along a road.
The NASA craft has had a few "stops" -- er, flybys — on its travels along the Solar System highway since leaving our planet in 2006, but one of the most major is happening on Tuesday, July 14.
It's Pluto, where it is neither July nor a Tuesday nor the 14th of any month. And Griffith Observatory — that's located on Earth, in the fairly recently founded city of Los Angeles, as far as events go on the arc of time — will celebrate on July 14 with a day of free programs all about the Big P.
Pluto's very big, as things go, and yet the quibbling about what some think of as our Solar System's pinkie finger perks up, now and again, when we tire of conjecturing about how the sun's corona gets so dang hot or whether the Horsehead Nebula looks more like a dragon.
In fact, it is hard to think of a dwarf planet or sub-planet or large distant orb that engenders more conversation or affection among the inhabitants of Earth. Sorry, Uranus and Neptune, but it's true; we're Pluto-mad here on the Watery Blue Marble.
Since its 1930 discovery by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, curious Earthlings have discussed it, reclassified it, and peered ardently into the Great Vast, trying to know this far-off speck.
Far-off speck to us, that is, all things being relative. New Horizons is rather closer to Pluto than we are as of July 14, and likely has a very different tale to tell about its size.
The Griffith Observatory's July 14 programs will fully cover the flyby, what New Horizons is looking at on Pluto, its geography and features and what NASA terms its "bright, mysterious heart."
An evening program on July 17 at the Griffith Park landmark will further delve into the mission and "Pluto's impact on culture."
Even the famously stately space agency is excited. "Pluto Palooza" is write large, in zany, retro font, on its homepage.
If you need to be part of the excitement, live, with other Pluto people, go Griffith Observatory, and prepare to learn a whole lot more, all at once, about the dwarf planet that has held Earthlings in its thrall for nearly a century.