Published: 2015-01-21 10:37:06
Updated: 2015-01-21 10:37:06
Posted January 21, 2015
By Tony Rice
Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences hosts the annual Astronomy Days this weekend – Saturday, Jan. 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m and Sunday, Jan. 25, 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. The event is free and features exhibits, talks and activities for all ages. This year’s theme is Pluto and the outer solar system.
Featured speakers include NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel, who will share his experiences during over 40 hours of spacewalks including repair and upgrades of the Hubble Space Telescope. John Spencer, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., will speak on the Pluto-bound New Horizons Mission. Dr. Harold Connolly, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, will outline the OSIRIS-Rex mission to return samples from an asteroid.
The NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., will be there with activities describing an asteroid retrieval mission, Mars and the recently test launched Orion crew capsule and the space launch system that will bring astronauts to Mars.
Area astronomy clubs, universities and others focused on astronomy and space exploration will have tables describing their work. The Raleigh Astronomy Club will host workshops on getting started in astronomy with a separate workshop focused on families.
If you’d like to try your hand at putting together your own space program, workshops on the Kerbal Space Program (KSP) spaceflight simulator will get you started at home. KSP is popular not only with gamers but is a hit with the professionals who launch rockets for a living at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), SpaceX and the European Space Agency.
New this year: An educator resource center just for teachers (formal and informal such as scout troop leaders) to help provide a hands-on experience for students. NASA volunteers will share STEM resources and provide demonstrations on the JPL’s Eyes of the Solar System and a classroom experiment provided by the Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center on clean rooms used to prepare spacecraft.
Additional talks will be going on throughout the day on topics like commercial space, black holes, comets and missions to Jupiter and Saturn. I’ll be giving talks throughout the weekend on how what the Air Force’s weather forecasters are looking for leading up to a launch as well as a behind the scenes look at driving the Mars rovers. Come by and say hi.
Visit http://www.astronomydays.org for a complete schedule of events and follow @astronomydays on Twitter for updates throughout the event.
Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.