Heroes

The man who discovered Pluto is about to become the first person to visit it.

We have visited all the planets of solar system and found worlds orbiting distant stars. Now we're about to explore ... Pluto? If you find yourself asking, "So what?" you're not alone. But you might be surprised by the answer.

The man who discovered Pluto is about to become the first person to visit it.

The Search Begins

In 1929, a young researcher named Clyde Tombaugh was handed a thankless, seemingly impossible task.

His bosses at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, gave him a series of nearly identical pictures of the same part of the night sky taken a few days apart and asked him to search, with his naked eyes, for a speck of light that moved like a planet. These were not pretty photos, and they barely changed from day to day. So we can only imagine how daunting this assignment must have felt for the young Tombaugh. Yet he took it graciously and spent over a year comparing photographs, two by two, using only an antiquated mechanical device called a blink comparator, his bare eyes, and his knowledge of planetary movement.


Clyde Tombaugh with his telescope

This was long before human spaceflight — 30 years before the Russians sent Sputnik up to be mankind's first messenger to the heavens and 40 before America landed the first men on the moon in 1969.

At this time, merely orbiting the Earth — much less visiting other moons and planets in our solar system — was only a dream in the minds of science fiction authors. Tombaugh likely had no notion that we would ever set off to explore the specks of light in his photos — much less that he might go on the journey himself.

Odd Planet

Yet he continued to look. He must not have expected that his work would have any lasting impact. The search, which many had unsuccessfully tried before, was driven not by the desire to invent new technologies or to solve global problems or even to make a fantastic discovery, but to answer a simple, if obscure, question: Why is Uranus' orbit a bit strange?

Orbiting closest to the sun, Mercury and Venus are solitary souls. Their destinies are controlled by the massive gravitational pull of that wellspring of light and heat, and they dance to no other tune. But the other planets waltz around the Sun in pairs. The Earth influences our red-hued partner, Mars, and vice versa. Giant Jupiter and noble, ringed Saturn are engaged in a similar dance. And the same is true for distant Uranus and Neptune, save one exception: Something else seems to be flirting with Uranus' orbit. Something from beyond the rim of the near solar system. This is what Tombaugh was looking for.

So What?

At this point, some people will understandably bristle at the idea of spending so much energy, money, and time answering a single, seemingly innocuous question. A wobble in Uranus' orbit is so distant, so seemingly meaningless to our daily lives here, billions of miles away ... where the same light that reaches Uranus in over two hours warms us in a mere eight minutes. And yet, although distant and removed from everyday concerns, questions like these are far from pointless.

Many of our greatest inventions, discoveries, or solutions to life's problems have started not with an idea, but with a simple, innocent question.

The question, "What is out there?" led us to develop rockets that launched the first probes into space, igniting the space race that landed men on the moon. The technology we made to accomplish these feats, to answer this simple question, ultimately led to life-changing things like GPS, laptops, satellite television, and much more. But we didn't know what the result of landing on the moon would be when we started. We just wanted to know more about the moon.

This is why we must continue to ask — and try to answer — these simple questions. It's impossible to see the future and know what the fruits of our curiosity might be. All we know is that for hundreds of years, we have been methodically asking and answering simple questions about the world around us, and the results of those explorations have given us nearly everything we value about the modern world.

The Next Questions

Guided by this idea and his curiosity, Tombaugh searched for more than a year, staring at photo after photo of the same dots in the sky. In 1930, he announced that he had discovered something beyond Neptune: Pluto, a ninth planet.

It was a momentous discovery, and it made Tombaugh a household name overnight. But almost as soon as it had been discovered, Pluto's existence gave rise to new questions. Measurements of the planet's size made it clear that it was too small to cause the irregularities in Uranus' orbit, and it probably didn't form in the same way the other planets did. So where did it come from? And what was really causing Uranus' strangeness?

In the 1990s, measurements of Neptune by the Voyager 2 spacecraft answered the second question. Uranus' strange orbit wasn't strange after all. We had simply miscalculated the size of Neptune and thus its effects on its orbital twin. But despite closing the book on the question that led to the discovery of Pluto, the first question — Where did Pluto come from? —continued to tug at the curiosity of astronomers.

Over time, using new technologies and pursuing new ideas, we began to form a better picture. In the 1990s, we discovered two new objects floating beyond Pluto. Since then, a thousand more have been found, and scientists believe there may be as many as 100,000 large objects floating on the outskirts of our solar system in a vast disc called the Kuiper belt.

Known objects in the Kuiper belt

Among other things, the discovery of the Kuiper belt caused the International Astronomical Union to downgrade Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet in 2006, a move Tombaugh spent his life fighting. But we can imagine that if he were still around, he would be thrilled to know that far beyond discovering a new planet, he'd found a new frontier of our own solar system: a gateway to thousands of new worlds, each with new questions waiting to be asked and answered.

A New Horizon

One of those questions is: "What is Pluto like?" Although we've known it exists for most of a century, we don't know much more about it. In fact, this image, a computer's best guess based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope, is the best view of it we've ever had:

We don't know what those smudges of color are. Are they mountains? Glaciers? Giant worms that produce a conscious-altering substance that enables faster-than-light travel? Probably not on that last one.

The truth is that we have no clue what Pluto is. We never have. But that's about to change.

In 1992, at the end of a long career, Tombaugh got a call from Robert Staehle of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In a sign of respect for its discoverer, Staehle asked Tombaugh for permission to visit Pluto.

Here's another distant image of the planet, taken this year, that portends the things to come:

At first glance, those are just two blurry dots, no more interesting than the ones Tombaugh had to look at way back in 1929. But they're so much more. The large dot in the center is Pluto. The smaller one moving around it is its largest moon, Charon. The two are so close together and so similar in size, this is the first time we've been able to clearly distinguish between the two bodies.

The photos were taken by a probe called New Horizons, the result of that 1992 phone call. It's been in deep space for nine years, and this July it will do a fly-by of Pluto. In just a few months, we'll have high-resolution photos of Pluto and its moons. We'll know what those blurry smudges on the Hubble images are (in fact, you can start voting on names for them now). And we'll officially start our voyage to the worlds of the Kuiper belt lying beyond — the final frontier of our solar system. And you'll be around to see it. But you're not the only one.

The Visitor

When Staehle asked Tombaugh for permission to visit Pluto in 1992, Tombaugh had the same reaction you probably would: "He's got to go one long, cold trip." He probably didn't expect that he was the one who would be making the journey.

"He's got to go one long, cold trip."

Tombaugh passed away in 1997, nearly a decade before we would visit his planetoid. Fittingly, New Horizons carries with it an ounce of Tombaugh's ashes. So in a way, he will be the first person to visit Pluto, the same as he was the first to discover it.

What would he have felt if he were alive today to see the journey unfold here on Earth, rather than make it himself? Hear his children reflect on the journey to the frontier he unlocked:

When you're done, take a moment to reflect on how far we've come from that original, simple question about Uranus. And share this with folks who, innocently and justifiably, might hear that we're visiting Pluto and ask "so what?"

True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Most of us did some tumbling moves as kids, from somersaults to cartwheels. A chosen few could pull off more impressive moves, like handsprings and backflips. But guaranteed, no kid that any of us knew could do anything close to the feats 5-year-old Li Jiamin can do.

A video of Li doing 80 back handsprings in under a minute (some people counted 82—it's really hard to keep track without making yourself dizzy) has gone viral, with more than a million views on Twitter alone.

At first, you might assume it's a looped video (I know I did). But watch the way the wrinkles build up in the side and top of the mattress. If there's a loop in there somewhere, it doesn't account for most of the flips, and when you see what else Li can do, the feat becomes a whole lot more believable.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.