Tuesday, October 23, 2007

ASTC Day 4

Almost done... Here's the rundown from Day 4 of the ASTC meeting in CA.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Field Trip to Griffith Observatory
This morning I boarded a bus along with 250 of my closest friends to travel to Griffith Observatory in LA's Griffith Park. The drive took us up a winding road in the Park. Unfortunately it was cloudy and drizzling for most of the day, so what would normally have been a fabulous view was obscured by clouds. The Observatory is absolutely gorgeous (although I read somewhere once that it is also called "the hood ornament of Los Angeles"). It opened in 1935 and was the country's premier site for public telescope viewing. It closed its doors in 2002 for a $93 million renovation and expansion. The doors reopened in late 2006. Because public interest in viewing the renovations is so high at present, visits to the Griffith are by appointment only until demand decreases.

The Griffith has several exhibit galleries. The one I enjoyed the most was its "Hall of the Sky" in which models of the Sun, Earth, and Moon were used in combination with animations and text panels to illustrate basic astronomy phenomena such as eclipses, seasons, moon phases, etc. Using this three-pronged approach helps the exhibits appeal to a wide audience with different learning styles, ages, and levels of familiarity with the subject matter. I also really enjoyed viewing the various meteorites on display, especially one of the Los Angeles shergottites
(a shergottite is a type of martian meteorite). Since we have not yet been able to return samples from Mars, martian meteorites are the only samples of the Red Planet available for scientific analysis. However, NASA is planning a Mars sample return mission for the future so stay tuned.

After touring the exhibits I had a chance to view clips of recently developed planetarium shows, data visualizations, and experimental music and art (kind of like the Pink Floyd laser shows you might be familiar with but with better graphics) in the Griffith Observatory's Samuel Oschin Planetarium. The Planetarium has a new star projector and a new digital projection system. Some of the NASA collaborations we got to view were "The Search for Life: Are we Alone?", "Passport to the Universe", and "Cosmic Collisions". These shows are traveling the country so be sure to check the listings at your local planetarium in case you're interested.

Back at the California Science Center
Later in the day I was back at the California Science Center where I toured more of the exhibits. My favorite was "Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear". In addition to learning about how and why we physically react to fearful situations, the exhibit contains a challenge course in which you can test your ability to overcome certain fears (like falling or touching insects and snakes) and then analyze your physical reactions. One of the cool things about this exhibit is that visitors actually become part of it because it's set up in such a way that you can observe each other's reactions during the challenge course. The exhibit will be leaving the CSS in December to go on tour around the US so be sure to check it out when it comes to your area!

And in case you're wondering, I was too chicken to do the part of the challenge course that involved touching hissing cockroaches. One thing I'm not afraid of is admitting that I'm afraid!

"Fly Me to the Moon"
After having a popsicle (aka margarita) in the Rose Garden of Exposition Park, I watched a screening of "Fly Me to the Moon" in the CSS IMAX theater. "Fly Me to the Moon" is a new 3D movie about 3 flies that travel to the Moon along with the Apollo 11 astronauts. It's scheduled for release in 2008. The 3D animations were great. Hopefully this movie will help get kids interested in not only the Apollo missions, but in NASA's upcoming efforts to return humans to the Moon and then eventually send them to Mars. The first step in this "Vision for Space Exploration" is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which will launch late next year!!

1 comment:

CCP said...

I was there with you, had a clip in the fulldome showcase and was visiting the observatory for the Nth time since it re-opened. I wrote the exhibits (working in conjunction with the director and a team of designers in NYC), and every time I get a chance to go to SoCal,I visit GO... it's a unique place!

It was my first ASTC meeting -- what a trip!