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Astronomy Days 2014: Celebrating Comets, Meteorites, and MORE!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — January 15, 2014

Science, Education, Features Editors. Image available upon request.

Contact: emelia.cowans@naturalsciences.org; 919.707.9837

See a piece of the asteroid that exploded over Russia, meet a US-trained Russian Cosmonaut-Candidate, take a picture in an astronaut’s uniform

RALEIGH – It’s up, up and away at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Astronomy Days 2014! The free, two-day, out-of-this-world event will be held Saturday, January 25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, January 26, from noon to 5 p.m. Both wings of the Museum will be teeming with dozens of exhibits, entertaining and educational hands-on activities and live presentations guaranteed to delight everyone from star-struck kids to novice astronomers to expert stargazers. 

Returning favorites include the Tripoli Rocketry Association, who will be on hand to show off their amazing high-powered model rockets — some over 20 feet tall! Visitors can also see telescopes on display, learn what they need to know before buying the right telescope, explore an array of special presentations and exhibits covering weather on other planets, meet animals of the constellations, view demonstrations of astrophotography (taking space photos using basic home equipment like telescopes and tripods) and learn how to identify meteorites. You can also get your picture taken “on the moon’s surface” in as astronaut’s uniform! 


The Museum is very pleased to be home to three pieces of the asteroid that entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Russia last year. These pieces will be added to our “Postcards From Space” exhibit (3rd floor, NRC), a collection of more than 100 meteorites, courtesy of Don Cline, President of Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI). The asteroid was roughly the same size as the Museum’s Daily Planet Theater globe on Jones Street before it exploded into many fragments several miles above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The explosion was equivalent to 500,000 tons of TNT, or about 30 atomic bombs. The Museum’s meteorite collection contains many specimens that were “seen to fall,” which is unusual. Most meteorites are found later, not witnessed in events like this one. 

We also have a special guest speaker who will speak on both days. Dr. Yuri Karash is a US-trained Russian Space Policy expert and journalist and former Cosmonaut-Candidate. His talk is entitled, “The Current State of the Russian Space Program.” Dr. Karash is sponsored by the North Carolina Academy of Science.

Other presentations include “Comets: Visitors from Deep Space” and “Comet ISON, Disappointment of the Century?” by Tony Rice, NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador; “Dissecting the Moore County Meteorite, Piece by Piece” by Dr. Chris Tacker, Curator of Geology, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences; and “Life in the Solar System ... and Beyond?” by Dr. Rachel L. Smith, Director of Astronomy & Astrophysics, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. A complete schedule of presentations and workshops is available on our website at www.naturalsciences.org. A program guide listing events and activity times for each day will be available at the door. 

Presentations will be held in the WRAL-3D Theater (1st floor, Main),  Daily Planet Theater (1st floor, NRC) and Windows on the World (3rd floor, Main). Interactive astronomy workshops will be held throughout the day in the Environmental Conference Center, (4th floor, NRC). 

Kid-friendly Activities

There’s lots to do at Astronomy Days for the entire family. Kids can drive a small rover on a model of a moonscape, sponsored by the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, get their faces painted and see demonstrations on how craters are formed. Members of the “Weightless Lumbees,” a team of students from UNC Pembroke and UNC Charlotte selected by NASA to conduct scientific experiments aboard reduced-gravity aircraft, will also be on hand.  Outside on Bicentennial Plaza there will be solar viewing and opportunities to blast off your own bottle rockets! 

Visitors can also talk to astronomy experts. Educational tables include, “Astronomy: Fact or Fiction” designed to debunk myths, “How Much Things Weigh in Outer Space” sponsored by the Raleigh Astronomy Club, and “Moon Phases and Classifying Galaxies” sponsored by UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution

The Museum’s current traveling exhibit has a unique connection to astronomy. The Bird of Paradise constellation, also called Apus, is a faint constellation in the southern sky, first defined in the late 16th century. Apus in Greek means, “no feet.” “Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution” runs now through March 23, 2014. Tickets are available online. http://naturalsciences.org/exhibits/special-exhibits

Astronomy Days is co-sponsored by the non-profit Raleigh Astronomy Club and the North Carolina Science Festival. For more information contact Bonnie Eamick at 919.707.9890 or via email at bonnie.eamick@naturalsciences.org.


Publish Date: 
Wednesday, January 15, 2014