Come explore human health and wellness at Morehead’s Family Science Day program this Saturday (April 2, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.).

How do the foods you eat affect your health? Family Science Day shares some ideas.

You can taste test healthy snacks. Take a mini-class in yoga or tai chi with your kids. Test your heart rate before and after competing in a mini-Olympics event. Learn how thoughts can affect health.

There’ll be guest speakers, exhibits, hands-on activities, story time and even a Science LIVE! Human Body Test. You can meet and talk with scientists who are researching ways to keep us all healthy through every stage of life.

All of the Family Science Day activities are free, and everything is planned so that there’s something for almost every age level — even yours! See you Saturday.

My officemate is eating an apple right now.

11 Mar 2011
0

We made a (very) short video with some of the folks that showed up at the most recent alumni event at Morehead. Check it out:

Shot and edited by one of our fantastic student interns, Margaret Cheatham Williams.

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

This weekend, Morehead will host a unique event — a “homecoming” of sorts for our alumni, a chance for reconnection and recreation among UNC graduates who used to spend hours together but now rarely see one another.

Morehead employs around 60 UNC undergraduate students (and sometimes a graduate student or two) every year. If you’ve visited Morehead, you’ve met our student employees. The person who greeted your school bus on your field trip, the person who rang up your purchase of astronaut ice cream, the person who invited you to volunteer for the Science LIVE! demonstration, the person who presented your planetarium show — all Morehead student employees.

Morehead alumni

Morehead student employees and UNC teaching fellows served as hosts and hostesses for the 2004 Jupiter Ball. Now, they're among our alumni.

They’re busy behind the scenes, too. Morehead student employees help write camp curricula, design flyers, train their peers to master new skills, work with teachers on field trip reservations, solve computer glitches, type and file and copy … there aren’t any departments within the planetarium, from the director’s office to front-line service roles, where you won’t find student employees at Morehead.

It’s a win-win situation. Morehead benefits from an ever-changing influx of fresh ideas and energy. These students are SMART. They’re hard working and enthusiastic, too. They relate well to our visitors, and they share new perspectives that strengthen Morehead programs.

And what do the students get from working at Morehead? Paychecks, an on-campus “family” away from home, a fun environment and unique leadership opportunities. Best of all, they learn new skills that translate into better job opportunities after graduation. At Morehead, they’re given a lot of responsibility and encouraged to learn as much as possible — and they do, in all kinds of activities. Event management. Retail marketing. Grantwriting. Curriculum design. Public speaking. Group project coordination.

Year after year, we watch Morehead alumni transform their experiences here into career paths. They now work at other science centers, creating educational programs and designing exhibits. They work in graphic design and public relations and nonprofit development. They work in public schools, in research labs, in business and industry. They are making a difference in the world.

We are proud of our alumni. Welcome “home,” everyone!

Once a Tar Heel, always a Tar Heel.

February 2008 lunar eclipse (credit: Jayme Hanzak)

The next time the Moon is full, it will pass into the Earth’s shadow, causing a total lunar eclipse. The action happens early Tuesday morning, December 21, 2010, between 1:33 and 5:01 a.m. Totality is from 2:41 to 3:53 a.m. (All times Eastern.)

So seeing it probably means inconveniencing yourself unless you work the night shift or will be in another time zone. (Lucky folks on the West Coast, for example, get to subtract three hours from all the times above.) If the skies are clear enough, here’s why it is worth losing sleep to see the eclipse:

1) You will see the Moon turn a weird color.

When the Moon passes into the Earth’s shadow, rather than disappearing altogether, it will probably turn red. Or maybe orange, or gray, or brown. The Earth’s atmosphere bends sunlight and sends it into the Earth’s shadow, so in effect you see light from all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth. The exact color of the Moon depends on what’s in our atmosphere as well as how deeply into the darkest part of the shadow the Moon passes.

2) You can prove to yourself the Earth is round.

When the eclipse is in a partial phase, you can see that the Earth’s shadow is curved.

3) You can imagine a ferocious dog taking a bite out of the Moon.

According to a Korean myth, a lunar eclipse happens when a king’s “fire dog” attempts to steal the Moon and bring its light to the Land of Darkness. When this huge, fierce dog bites into the Moon he finds it painfully cold. His mouth freezing and his teeth singing with pain, the dog then spits out the Moon.

4) You haven’t gotten to see a total lunar eclipse in nearly 3 years.

The night of February 20-21, 2008, was the most recent total eclipse of the Moon visible from anywhere on Earth.

5) …and you may have missed that eclipse anyway.

That week I was presenting a stargazing seminar for public school teachers at the Ocracoke campus of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, where I remember good views of the eclipse. But members of the Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society (CHAOS) reported cloud cover during the early stages.

6) …and your NEXT chance to see a total lunar eclipse from here won’t be until April 2014.

And its timing during the night isn’t any more convenient for the East coast than this Dec. 21 eclipse, so don’t wait for that reason.

To witness a simulation of the eclipse with no loss of sleep, and to learn more Moon-related stuff, please join me at the Moon Myths planetarium program:

  • A 90-minute version designed for adults and teens happens this Wednesday, Dec. 15, from 7:30-9:00 p.m. In addition to spending time under the planetarium sky, we’ll do a hands-on “moon dance” (no actual dancing required) to explore how the Moon’s orbit is related to phases and eclipses. And if the weather permits, we’ll spend a few minutes outside looking at the real thing through a telescope.

Register for either program at the Morehead Web site.

Amy Sayle is setting an alarm to catch the lunar eclipse.

Geminid meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Gemini the Twins. (Credit: International Astronomical Union, Sky & Telescope)

The Geminid meteor shower peaks the night of December 13-14, providing its annual cosmic light show. Alas, our current forecast predicts temperatures dropping toward the teens that night. Here’s why it’s worth freezing yourself* to view the meteors (assuming you have reasonably clear skies):

1) The Geminid meteor shower is strong and reliable.

It’s actually already happening. The shower is active from December 4-16, with the peak on Tuesday morning, December 14.

2) You can watch the sky act out a mythological story.

The streaks of light you’ll see (also called, confusingly, “shooting stars”) result from debris from a rocky object called 3200 Phaethon. In Greek mythology, Phaethon’s disastrous attempt to drive the Sun chariot across the sky resulted in Zeus (Jupiter) hurling a lightning bolt that caused Phaethon to tumble out of the chariot “like a shooting star.” In addition to seeing meteors streaking through the sky and imagining Phaethon’s last ride, you will also see Jupiter—the planet, that is—if you are out before midnight. But let’s hope for no lightning bolts.

3) You don’t have to wake up insanely early.

Unlike most meteor showers, which require going outside at what most of us consider a ridiculous hour, the Geminids are worth looking for anytime after about 9 p.m. (Monday, Dec. 13). At that time you will also see Jupiter and the waxing gibbous Moon appearing close together—a lovely sight, though that moonlight may prevent you from seeing fainter meteors.

4) If you’re willing to go out to a dark site after midnight (early morning Tuesday, Dec. 14), you may see roughly a meteor or more per minute.

The single best hour is likely to be centered around 2 a.m. The Moon will have set, and high in the sky will be the radiant—the point in the constellation Gemini from which Geminid meteors appear to originate. Around that time, meteors will appear to fall down in all directions. To see the most meteors, you need a sky free from light pollution. Seek an open view as far away from city lights as you can.

5) All you need are your eyes. And warm clothes.

Do give your eyes at least ten minutes to adjust to the dark. You do not need to know how to identify the constellation Gemini. The American Meteor Society suggests that if it’s before midnight, try facing toward the east, keeping the Moon out of your field of view. Closer to 2 a.m., try looking about halfway up the sky, in whatever is the darkest direction for your location.

*So that you don’t actually freeze yourself, remember to dress really, really warmly, and wrap yourself in a blanket or sleeping bag.

Amy Sayle is looking forward to presenting "Moon Myths" this week in the climate-controlled planetarium theater.

When you look at the space station flying over, someone might be looking down at you. (Credit: Expedition 24 crew, NASA)

Are you a morning person? If so, this Thanksgiving holiday provides good opportunities for you and other early birds along the East Coast to see the International Space Station (ISS).

If the sky isn’t too cloudy, the two best ISS passes will be the mornings of Thursday, November 25 (Thanksgiving Day), and Saturday, November 27. Both times the ISS will first appear low in the southwest. Over the next few minutes, you can watch it pass to nearly the zenith (top of the sky) before it disappears low in the northeast.

For our location, Heavens-Above currently predicts that the Thursday pass will happen from 6:32 to 6:37 a.m.  Saturday’s will be from 5:49 to 5:53 a.m. Black Friday shoppers who like to get out insanely early will also be treated to an ISS pass from 5:23 to 5:27 a.m. that morning, but it will be much lower to the horizon.

To find the space station, look for a very, very bright “star” that is noticeably moving. The ISS is so bright that it won’t matter how light polluted your observing site is, and it won’t matter that Thursday morning’s pass happens in a sky brightening from the approaching sunrise.

Although it is not hard to spot the ISS, you will likely see it sooner—and have more fun—if others look with you. So you might practice ambush astronomy on any visiting relatives and haul them outside with you. Set your watch accurately, and don’t give up if you don’t notice the ISS in the first minute or two.

Be sure not to mistake the International Space Station for:

  • a plane (the ISS does not have red or green blinking lights)
  • a bright planet (Venus and Saturn are currently in the morning sky, but they won’t appear to be trucking across it)
  • a bright star (no star rivals the apparent brightness of the ISS this Thursday or Saturday, or appears to move across the sky over a few minutes)

Because predictions of where and when to look can change, you may wish to check Heavens-Above or NASA’s sighting opportunities page the night before for updated predictions. Also check one of these sites if you will be somewhere other than the Triangle area. For either Web site, you must specify your observing location (for Heavens-Above see the “Configuration” heading).

Amy Sayle is definitely not a morning person but is considering waking up Thursday in time to see the space station.

It’s a tough question: Which is more popular, “Scare-olina Skies” in October or “Carolina Skies: Valentine Edition” in February?

Here are my three reasons why “Scare-olina Skies” rules:

  • Those ancient Greeks and Romans created amazing tales about strange monsters, set among the constellations of the night sky. I love to hear those stories — they add a fun new element to skywatching.
  • There’s a special “Scare-olina Skies: Family Edition” version just for school-age children and their parents on Saturday, Oct. 30, at 3:30 p.m. (The version for adults and older teens is offered at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29, and on Saturday, Oct. 30.)
  • This planetarium show is a great alternative to the “same old, same old” Halloween activities. (And you can wear your costume if you want.)

Need another reason? Consider this: Since Morehead installed its new fulldome digital video projection system this year, October 2010 is our first opportunity to offer “Scare-olina Skies” as a fulldome show! So if you come this year, you’ll be part of our history.

See you this weekend!

There will be no "sports agent" Halloween costumes permitted on Franklin Street.

If you’ve ever checked out Morehead’s YouTube channel, you’ve probably seen the Science 360 series about 2012. Even if you haven’t seen the series, you probably know the mythology: ancient Maya astronomers predicted the end of the world, comets, planetary alignments, other bad things.

Well, tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010) Morehead is offering you a unique opportunity to hear the newest research from Anthony Aveni, who is a founder of archeaoastronomy and one of the world’s leading experts on Maya astronomy. (He’s also a Colgate University professor who was once named one of America’s Top Ten College Professors by “Rolling Stone” magazine.) Dr. Aveni’s publishing his newest book in December, so you’ll get to hear the current thinking about 2012 mythology two months before he hits the talk show circuit.

Dr. Aveni’s presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the Banquet Hall (east end of Morehead), and it’s free.

Thanks to our friends at Lenovo for their support of this presentation.

14 Sep 2010
0

I met a scientist today. And tomorrow I get to meet another one. So can you.

This week and next week, Morehead is hosting “Out To Lunch” programs for five of its most popular Science 360 topics. It’s a great way to spend your lunch break — bring a sandwich, if you want. You’ll see a presentation about current research, PLUS you’ll meet one of the scientists who are making that research happen.

Ask questions, share your own theories, learn a little more about our world. And it’s free!

Today’s OTL program was “Predicting Severe Weather.” Jonathan Blaes, a meteorologist with the NOAA National Weather Service, gave us a behind-the-scenes look into how airplanes provide key data for everything from daily forecasts to hurricane predictions.

The cross-section of people in the room was interesting, too. There were several home-school families, a group of meteorologists, students and staff members from UNC, some retirees and others who didn’t clearly fit into any of those categories. They asked GREAT questions. And a few of them were interviewed by a newspaper reporter who also attended.

So you missed the first one — but there are four more in the days ahead! So be sure to catch some of these:

  • Learn “Why Antimatter Matters” with physicist Reyco Henning on Wednesday, Sept. 15
  • Take a “Mission to Mars” on Thursday, Sept. 16, with NASA trainee Zena Cardman
  • Explore “Solar Cells” with chemist Wei You on Tuesday, Sept. 21
  • And examine “The Truth Behind 2012” (you know, all those rumors about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world) on Thursday, Sept. 23, with a panel of experts that includes astronomer Dan Reichart, linguist David Mora-Marin and geologist Kevin Stewart

How cool is that? You need to be there. Your friends will be totally impressed with your new FB status update: “having lunch with an eminent researcher.”

It all happens in the Science Stage, which is the small auditorium adjacent to the Morehead Rotunda. Enter through the UNC Visitors Center entrance (facing McCorkle Place), and it’s easy to find. Come meet a scientist! (Sandwich optional.)

“Out To Lunch with Science 360″ is an official North Carolina Science Festival event.

Along with their approach to astronomy, the Mayans also made headlines with a truly revolutionary hot chocolate recipe.

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.