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Museum of Natural Sciences a free, fun resource in Raleigh

Posted April 20, 2016

The 72-foot-tall Daily Planet has become an icon for the NC Museum of Natural Sciences (Image: NCMNS/NCDNR)

— At this time four years ago, I was at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences along with 70,000 new friends for the 24-hour celebration opening the Nature Research Center (NRC). Lines to get in stretched around the block until late into the night.

My day started before the doors opened pitching in with a little IT help getting interactive exhibit computers rebooted and functioning for the big day and ended 26 hours later. The rest of the day and night was spent in the Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Lab talking with visitors about everything from Mars to Heliophysics to black holes. There were families and couples. There were even several very well dressed young people who stopped by the event after prom.

In the four years since then, 4,153,663 visitors have walked through the doors. In 2012, it was the state’s top attraction with 1.2 million visitors (1,226,540 to be exact according to Jonathan Pishney, head of communications at the museum). Not only is it the oldest established museum in the state, it is the largest of its kind in the Southeast. We are very fortunate to have these resources right in our backyard.

The museum has been recognized through accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums, and it is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and NASA Museum Alliance. In 2014, the museum was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in a White House ceremony from among 35,000 museums. It was also the site of the annual conference of the Association of Science-Technology Centers in 2014.

The museum continues to delight visitors with science events.

This Saturday, the Triangle SciTech Expo brings together scientists and technical professionals from universities, organizations and industry from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with over 50 hands-on exhibits, games, crafts, activities and a series of presentations.

Next Thursday, the NRC hosts the monthly meeting of the Raleigh Astronomy Club from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Professor Charles R. Evans, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill will present a view of the recent results from the LIGO experiment in “Detection of Gravitational Waves and the New Era of Gravitational Wave Astronomy.” Monthly meetings are open to the public.

On Monday, May 9, the museum hosts observation of the transit of Mercury from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through solar-filtered telescopes. There will also be lectures in the Daily Planet Theater by Dr. Rachel L. Smith, head of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Lab on the history and discovery on Mercury at 11 a.m. I’ll be sharing information about how transits of Mercury and Venus have shaped our view of the solar system through history at 11:30 a.m.

These events, like the museum itself, are free.


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