The Beehive Cluster [Atlas Image courtesy of 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

Please “catch the buzz” and join us this Saturday, June 25, when Morehead hosts a Family Science Day with a theme of “Native Pollinators.”

We will have lots of free activities!  Play Pollination Jeopardy, dance like a bee, craft a pollinator or flower, listen to a story, examine a flower with a ‘Scope on a Rope, do a scavenger hunt in Coker Arboretum, see “Science 360: Flower Power,” and have your face painted with a flower or pollinator.

Also, with paid admission to a regular planetarium program this Saturday (Morehead members free), you get a bonus: the award-winning shortJeepers Creepers” and a pollination-related tour of the night sky.

Family Science Day happens rain or shine.  Events are inside and outside the Morehead Planetarium building from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Amy Sayle will tell the Cherokee Legend of the Milky Way (a story about a wind-pollinated food) during Family Science Day.

The final video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on the Galactic Plane Alignment. Some people think that our solar system will pass through the galactic plane causing the Earth to be destroyed by asteroids. If you’ve seen the previous Truth Behind 2012 videos, you can probably guess how much scientific evidence there is behind this claim.

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

The sixth video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on magnetic pole reversals. Some people think a virtually instantaneous reversal of the magnetic poles on Earth could cause all kinds of havoc. What do you think? You guessed it – it’s not true. Even if there was a magnetic pole reversal, it would take tens of thousands of years to take place and it’s already happened tens of thousands of times on Earth already. Bottom line is that you don’t have to pack up the house and get on the next transport out of here. Check out this video to get the real science behind the hype.

The Truth Behind 2012: Magnetic Pole Reversal!

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

The fifth video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on the supposedly hidden Planet Niburu. Some people think a rogue planet called Niburu that has an extremely long orbit will swing around and collide with the Earth. Guess what? This 2012-doomsday scenario also has a lot of scientific evidence against it. Check out the video and find out why it’s just as likely that the DeathStar is going to destroy the Earth.

The Truth Behind 2012: The Planet Niburu!

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

The fourth video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on the galactic center alignment. Some people think that the Earth, our Solar System and the center of the Milky Way Galaxy will align and the resulting gravitational forces from the black hole in the center of the galaxy will destroy the Earth. Once again, this 2012-doomsday scenario has a lot of scientific evidence against it. Check it out and find out why it won’t happen and even if it did, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

The Truth Behind 2012: Galactic Center Alignment

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

The third video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on the planetary alignment. Some people think that the planets of our Solar System will align and the resulting gravitational forces will damage our Sun. Once again, this 2012-doomsday scenario has a lot of scientific evidence against it. Check it out and find out why the planets won’t be aligning and, even if they did, it wouldn’t cause a disaster.

The Truth Behind 2012: Planetary Alignment

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

Here’s our next video in the Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series. In this one, we’re focusing on the “end of the Maya calendar.” Does the Mayan “Long Count” calendar mark the end of a 5,126-year era and herald an apocalypse? As with the other 2012-doomsday scenarios, the Mayan calendar claim has a good deal of scientific evidence against it. Check it out and find out why the real Maya will probably not be hiding in caves, but throwing a party.

The Truth Behind 2012: Mayan Calendar

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager. He will be partying like it's 5126. Yes, Prince will be there.

We’ve taken our popular Science 360 presentation, “The Truth Behind 2012″ and made it into eight short videos that we’ll be releasing once a week for the next two months. If you’ve been paying attention to pop culture at all in the past year or so, you’ve probably heard some rumors about 2012, whether it’s from the movie that came out earlier in the year or other sources. We’re going to take all of the disaster theories and debunk them one by one.  Look forward to seeing ones on the Mayan calendar, the pole reversal, the rogue planet Nibiru, solar eruptions and more. Just subscribe to our Youtube channel and you won’t miss an episode. Our first is about the theory that a giant asteroid is set to strike the Earth.

The Truth Behind 2012: Asteroid Strike!

For more information about The Truth Behind 2012, check out our other previous blog posts about the subject:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager. He fears no asteroids.

F5 Tornado

Scientists working on the VORTEX2 project this month are combing the Great Plains in search of tornadoes. When completed in June, VORTEX2 will be the largest-ever study of tornadoes. Image by Justin Hobson.

Lightning flashes overhead, hail pounds mercilessly into the ground, and high winds threaten to bring down trees. Suddenly, a funnel cloud begins to snake down from the dark clouds above, kicking up dust and growing in size as it reaches the ground. If you are like most people, seeing something like this would probably make you want to run for cover. But for more than 100 scientists working with the VORTEX2 project, running for cover isn’t an option. Being up close and personal with tornadoes is their job, and over the course of the next month they will be patrolling the Great Plains region of the United States searching for these killer storms.

VORTEX stands for “Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment.” As the name suggests, the project is attempting to discover exactly how, when, where, and why tornadoes form. Currently, weather forecasters can predict tornadoes with an average lead time of only 13 minutes, and 70% of tornado alerts turn out to be false alarms. VORTEX2, which runs from May 1 to June 15 of this year, will be the largest-ever tornado study, and the scientists involved hope to deploy an unprecedented array of cutting-edge technology into and around these storms.

The original VORTEX project took place in 1994 and 1995 and helped to inspire the 1996 film Twister. Data from that project helped to significantly improve tornado forecasting. The VORTEX2 project will build on the knowledge gained from its predecessor by using more advanced data collection tools and by extending the study period by two weeks. You can follow VORTEX2’s daily progress at the project website or blog.

If you are interested in learning more about tornadoes and other severe weather events, stay tuned to the Morehead website for information about a new live show that will debut on June 15 (the last day of the VORTEX2 project): “Science 360: Predicting Severe Weather.”

Casey Rawson is the Science Content Developer for Science 360.

Earth's Magnetic Field

Earth's magnetic field protects us from solar radiation, as shown in this image (an artist's conception from NASA). Is it possible that this protective shield might disappear on December 21, 2012?

So far, we’ve debunked four end-of-the-world claims in our 2012 blog series (see them all here). But those who are predicting a 2012 doomsday seem to have taken a “more is more” approach in terms of their ideas about just what will bring about an apocalypse on December 21, 2012 – one website lists 22 possible causes! One pervasive claim on 2012 sites is the idea that Earth will undergo a magnetic pole reversal on 12/21/2012, leaving us completely unprotected from fatal levels of solar radiation.

First, let’s examine the facts behind this claim:

  1. The Earth’s magnetic field has been declining in strength over the past century or so.
  2. Earth’s magnetic field does protect us from solar radiation.

Unfortunately for the 2012 crowd, that is where the facts end. While Earth’s magnetic field strength has been declining recently, it is still well above average. A graph of field strength over time shows many fluctuations – the current decline is nothing unique. While there’s no way to prove that we aren’t heading for a reversal, there is also no definitive proof that we are.

Secondly, the protection from solar radiation afforded by our magnetic field would not disappear during a reversal. While the magnetic field strength does decrease during this process, it does not fall to zero – and even a weak field can stop many solar rays. Those that do get through a weakened magnetic field would then have to deal with our atmosphere, which is as effective at stopping solar radiation as a 13-foot-thick wall of concrete! The greatest risk during a reversal would be to satellites and astronauts orbiting the Earth at high elevations, where our atmosphere is too thin to provide much protection. If previous magnetic reversals coincided with damaging levels of solar radiation here at ground level, we would see evidence of it in the fossil record – and we simply don’t.

If these arguments haven’t convinced you, then here’s one more: magnetic reversals take thousands of years to complete, not a single day! So rest easy – and don’t be afraid to step into the sun on 12/21/2012.

To find out more about the 2012 claims, plan to attend our Science 360 show “The Truth Behind 2012” when it opens on February 6.

Casey Rawson is the Science Content Developer for Science 360. Her favorite 2012 possibility is #21; the phrase "catastrophic pinball machine" conjures up some great images.

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