Museum of Natural Sciences Hosts Astronomy Days
Make and blast off your own bottle rocket, find out how much you weigh in outer space, and see a full scale model of the Mars Rover at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' Astronomy Days, Saturday, May 21, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 22, from noon to 5 p.m.
The event is free. NASA, the Raleigh Astronomy Club and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center have partnered with the museum to bring two days of interactive exhibits, educational stations, animals of the constellations and live entertainment.
All four floors of the museum will transform into an astronomical wonderland of planetary exploration, which is the theme of this year's event.
"The museum is also pleased to host astronaut Jose Hernandez, who will give a talk titled 'An Astronaut's Journey Through the Stars' at 10:45 a.m. and 1 p.m.," says a spokesman.
At 10 a.m., Hernandez will give a special presentation to a group of 100 children of migrant workers. Hernandez, also a child of migrant workers, was part of the STS-128 space shuttle mission to the International Space Station in August 2009 and recorded 13 days, 20 hours and 54 minutes in space. The mission on board the Space Shuttle Discovery carried the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Leonardo as the primary payload. Leonardo contained a collection of experiments for studying the physics and chemistry of microgravity.
Visitors can also take part in the NASA Experience located inside the museum's special exhibits gallery on the second floor. See a live demonstration on how comets are formed using dry ice; try on different pieces of an astronaut's uniform and experience what it's like to live, work and move in outer space; and immerse yourself inside a 25 by 25, 13-foot tall GeoDome that projects crystal clear, high-definition images and movies that create a virtual space experience. There will also be robotics and weather experts on hand.
"However, the most exciting feature of the NASA Experience will be an actual size replica of the Mars Rover courtesy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory," says the spokesman.
In the fall, NASA will launch the newest rover, Curiosity. Essentially an SUV-size, robotic geologist, Curiosity will look for the building blocks of life and signs of carbon and radiation on Mars.
Local astronomy experts will also be giving talks throughout both days in the Windows on the World amphitheater. Outside on Bicentennial Plaza, visitors of all ages can blast off their own bottle rockets, participate in solar viewing and learn how craters are formed. For a small fee, they can also get their faces painted. Other kid-friendly activities include a moon bounce and a chance to put on a real astronaut suit and take photos.
Inside the auditorium, there will be live music on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. from "The Chromatics." Their performance, "AstroCappella," includes songs about the universe, planets and stars.
For more information about Astronomy Days, contact Bonnie Eamick, educational events specialist, at Bonnie.Eamick@ncdenr.gov or by phone at (919) 733-7450, ext. 554.
Visit www.naturalsciences.org for further information about the museum, which is located in downtown Raleigh.
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