By Tony Rice, NASA Ambassador
Astronomy Days at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is underway. The annual event normally held the last Saturday and Sunday in January, spanning both wings of the museum has moved online and expanded to a week long event.
With 50 talks and activities offered throughout the week aimed at a variety of ages and experience, there is something for everyone. Click on any of the links below or visit the Astronomy Days schedule for these free sessions.
The Wake Audubon Society will show us how birds navigate by the stars, while NASA volunteers describe how spacecraft navigate beyond Earth and how this can go very wrong resulting in an impressive fiery crash before the rocket even makes it very far off the pad.
Astrophysicist Dr. Daniel Kennefick will also describe how astronomers used a total solar eclipse in 1919 to test Einstein's predictions on how gravity affects light "beyond a shadow of a doubt"
Learn more about NASA's plans to return to the Moon, this time, to stay. NASA Ambassador Adam Hauser offers an update on the InSight mission after its first two years on Mars. Museum educator Linda Saah will also lead a yoga session while sharing the story of the Orion Constellation.
A discussion of why we explore space, as well as a tour of the recently released astronaut database. If you missed Constellation Yoga there will be another session this day as well.
NC State Astrophysicist Dr. Katie Mack completes the day with a talk that spans the Big Bang to the end of the universe.
I'll be speaking on progress on the Space Launch System and the Artemis program, including some behind the scenes photos from recent visits to NASA centers in Louisiana and Mississippi where the rocket is built and tested. We'll also be talking about weather on other planets including results from Mars missions that show how the planet "breathes".
There will also be talks on missions to Jupiter's moon Europa as well as the Mars rovers Curiosity and Perseverance. Raleigh Astronomy Club members will also spell out the Top 10 Ways the Solar System can Kill You.
End the evening watching The Empire Strikes Back together followed by Q&A on the science of the film and movie trivia.
Learn how you can navigate the giant planets with OpenSpace, about the search for extra-terrestial life with special guest Dr. Dan Reichart from SETI and how OpenSpace is being used to help answer the question: are we alone? with Dr. Carter Emmart from the American Museum of Natural History.
Kids will enjoy sky stories for children and sci-fi fans of all ages will enjoy a discussion of astronomy in film.
Gary Stephenson will share his role not just as Chief Meteorologist at Spectrum News but also as the station scientist.
The day closes out at 8 p.m. with live views of deep sky objects from the Appalachian State University Observatory's 32" telescope with professor and observatory director Dr. Dan Canton.
Talks on the James Webb Space Telescope and an overview of the OSIRIS-REx mission and a deeper look at what samples returned by that mission can tell us by Dr. Pierre Haenecour from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona.
Kids will enjoy making a galaxy as well as a LEGO show and tell. Mechanical engineer Sam James will share how his journey in STEM courses and a NASA apprenticeship led him to build scaled model aircraft and spacecraft at NASA Langley's Test Article Development Section.
I will be sharing how I use the Python programing language to answer astronomy questions here on the WRAL Weather Blog as well as a live demo of how websites like NASA's Spot the Station and the many apps available for smartphones use data from NORAD and NASA to tell you when to look for the International Space Station.