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Astronomy Days prepares visitors for total eclipse

Posted January 25
Updated January 28

This weekend is Astronomy Days at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The annual event, among the largest on the east coast, shares space science with visitors through special exhibits, talks, and activities for all ages Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m.

This weekend is Astronomy Days at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The annual event, among the largest on the east coast, shares space science with visitors through special exhibits, talks, and activities for all ages Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m.

This year’s theme, “The Sun and Stars!”, will help the Carolinas get ready for the total eclipse in August. From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages will find something to do.

Representatives from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will share details about the Space Launch System and Orion capsule and plans to take humans to Mars. You can make and take home an Orion desktop model.

History buffs will enjoy author Jonathan H. Ward discussing his book “Countdown at the Rocket Ranch: Preparing Apollo for Launch”. A book signing will follow.

Telescopes and binoculars of all sizes will be on display with knowledgeable amateur astronomers to answer questions.The Raleigh and Chapel Hill astronomy clubs are providing talks to help you get started. More experienced observers or just fans of beautiful images of the universe can learn more about astrophotography too.

Younger visitors will enjoy meeting the animals which inspired the constellations and a visit to the discovery room with space-themed activities just for them.

Researchers from the museum and local universities will be joined by professors from the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary lab and UCLA Earth's Planetary, and Space Science Department. Lecture topics include the formation of galaxies and what the strange ones can tell us, our Sun’s gravitational effects, determining the age of stars, and Jupiter’s moon Europa where scientist think the first detection of extra terrestrial life is most likely to come from.

Astrophysicist Dr. Lika Guhathakurta, Lead Program Scientist for NASA's "Living With a Star” initiative, will share her perspective on the 2017 eclipse which she describes as “the most observed, most filmed and photographed, most studied and documented and probably most appreciated in human history.”

I will be talking about scientific experiments and observations that can only be conducted during eclipses as well as guidance on how you can best experience the 2017 eclipse. I will also have a rundown of current missions exploring the solar system including a live view into NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Space Flight Operations Facility, mission control for these robotic missions. Look for me between talks at the NASA exhibits on the fourth floor of the Nature Research Center, and say hi.

A schedule of events is available on the Astronomy Days website.

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