Needle in a Haystack

Full Color • 8.5″ by 11″ • 48 pages • Reading Grade Level 3 – 6

Publication Date: December 2023
Story by: Diane Phelps Budden
Design/Layout by: Tanja Bauerle
Published by: Red Rock Mountain Press/Book Baby
ISBN-13: 979-8218265298

Needle in a Haystack: How Clyde W. Tombaugh Found an Awesome New World

“Picking out a faint planet amid the myriad of star images would be literally like finding a needle in a haystack.”Clyde W. Tombaugh, 1980

As a young boy Clyde W. Tombaugh learned about astronomy from his father and uncle. He built his own telescope and made detailed drawings of Mars and Jupiter. He sent the drawings to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ, and was hired to locate a new planet at the edge of the solar system. Clyde’s discovery turned the scientific world and the public upside down with excitement.

Growing up on a Kansan farm gave Clyde W. Tombaugh plenty of sky to explore, and plenty of time to learn all he could about astronomy. He and his father and uncle trained their homemade telescope on the planets. Clyde drew the surfaces of Mars and Jupiter and shared his drawings with Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Gadzooks! They hired him to help search for a new planet! After 300 days of scouring the sky with a photographic telescope, Clyde pinpointed Pluto’s location on February 18, 1930. With tenacity and a passion for astronomy, he found the last planet in the solar system. The scientific community and the public were jubilant. Clyde’s story is perfect for STEM students. The back matter provides a follow-up to the status of Pluto, now considered a dwarf planet and the 2015 New Horizons Pluto flyby. There is also a bibliography, glossary, and biography of Tombaugh’s life of discovery.


“The inspiring story of Clyde Tombaugh and his discovery of Pluto is as much about personal dedication and persistence as it is a scientific quest. It is a tale for both young and old, and this book captures it well for young audiences.”

—Kevin Schindler, Historian, Lowell Observatory

“Wonderful story, well written and illustrated. This is a wonderful story about the man who discovered Pluto. A tribute to persistence written for children to understand and adults to appreciate. Filled with priceless old photos of his family and the early days of the Lowell Observatory. The book is complete with documentation and illustrations to bring the well-written story to life. I highly recommend for anyone interested in shooting for the stars and wondering, what does it take to discover a new planet!”
Kris, Amazon Customer Review – 5.0 out of 5 stars A Tribute to Persistence

A standout, informative junior biography that celebrates the solar system and self-taught knowledge.

This absorbing short biography explores the life of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the dwarf planet Pluto.

Fun Facts:

  • A heart-shaped area on Pluto was named after Clyde Tombaugh 
  • Pluto is an icy orb smaller than Earth’s moon
  • Pluto has 5 moons
  • Pluto’s air is very thin. If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh 6.7 pounds on Pluto. 
  • Pluto’ s temperature is minus 387 degrees 
  • Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006.
  • NASA’s New Horizons Mission flew by Pluto in 2015 and sent back the first close-up and clear photos of Pluto since it was discovered