RALEIGH — History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world's first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball, weighed only 183.9 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race. Come celebrate the 56th anniversary of the launch when the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences shows “October Sky” on First Friday, October 4 at 7pm. Free.
“October Sky” (1999) tells the true story of Homer Hickam Jr, a coal miner’s son inspired by the launch to take up rocketry against his father’s wishes. With the help of his friends and the local nerd, Homer attempts to build his own rocket by trial and a lot of error. The movie is based on “Rocket Boys,” the first in a series of three memoirs penned by Hickam. “Rocket Boys” was selected by the New York Times as one of its Great Books of 1998. The title “October Sky” works on two levels: it’s the month when the hero is first inspired by Sputnik flying overhead, and it’s an anagram of “Rocket Boys.”
Hickam is played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who also played the title character in “Donnie Darko” (2001), a troubled teenager whose visions of a large bunny cause him to commit a series of crimes. Gyllenhaall also portrayed Sam Hall in “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), a film in which his dad, NORAD paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (played by Dennis Quaid) makes a daring trek across America to reach him, trapped in the cross-hairs of a sudden international storm that plunges the planet into a new Ice Age. He made his movie debut, at the age of 11, playing Billy Crystal’s son in the film “City Slickers” (1991).
Want to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Nasca people of Peru? Sit in on a special First Friday presentation by archeological anthropologist Charles Stanish, professor and director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California at Los Angeles. You will learn about the different explanations for those iconic geoglyphs, ranging from their use in pointing out underground water resources, as ritual pathways, as astronomical markers, as mountain worship indicators and, of course, as extraterrestrial phenomena.
Want to find out just how many raccoons are out there? The Museum’s Open Minds: Teen Science Café (6pm, Daily Planet Café) is back! One of the most important pieces of information that a wildlife biologist seeks is how many animals there are in a given population. Join Museum Biodiversity Lab researcher Arielle Parsons as she explains the Mark-Recapture method for studying mammal populations and shares findings from her own work with raccoons on the Outer Banks.
The Museum and the new Nature Research Center stay open from 5 to 9pm on the First Friday of every month, inviting visitors to witness a (classic) sci-fi or horror movie, wander through eye-catching exhibits, groove to live music (this month featuring CityFolk), or enjoy food and beverages at the Daily Planet Café. Additionally, the Museum Stores offer after-hours shopping (till 7pm) and an opening reception for Vinita Jain, Dale McEntire, Wendy Musser, Carl Peverall and Patricia Savage, whose group show “Natural Beauties” runs October 4-27 in the Nature Art Gallery. All exhibited art is for sale.