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Mike Brown, Destroyer of Planets

Caltech Professor of Astronomy, Mike Brown knows how to get people’s attention. Traditionally, science lectures are not regarded as being the most exciting way to spend an evening out. Perhaps that’s why Dr. Brown decided to title his lecture at Rice University in Houston, TX this past March “How I killed Pluto and why it had it coming”. I was not present at the actual lecture but thanks to Rice University’s Astronomy Department and their “Public Connection” project I was able to view it online after the fact.

You may not recognize the name off-hand, even though he was one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2006 and has an asteroid named after him, but I guarantee you are at least casually familiar with some of his work. Yes, that’s right; he is the man who stripped Pluto of its planetary status.

The lecture was one of the best I’ve seen. Dr. Brown has great comedic timing in addition to having a great story to tell. The result is a lecture that you can sit through and wish there was more time to talk when it is over.

He touched on some Pluto history, explaining how Clyde Tombaugh was in fact searching for the predicted position of the infamous “Planet X” when he discovered Pluto in 1930. The calculated shape of Neptune’s orbit seemed to suggest that something else’s gravity was tugging on it from the further reaches of the solar system; something large. While he didn’t find anything at the point in space that was supposed to be inhabited by the theoretical Planet X, Tombaugh did happen to spot the, well, the “spot” on his photographic plates that turned out to be Pluto. By the way, for those of you who, like me, still have to deal with the topic of Planet X from time to time, the Neptune tug that prompted the search never really existed. It turned out to be bad data.

Flash forward 76 years and 90 miles south of Mount Wilson, and we find Mike Brown’s team at the Palomar Observatory working hard to confirm that a moving dot on their data images was in fact the object now known as Eris, the largest of the dwarf planets, or according to Professor Brown, “the slightly pudgier twin of Pluto”. Actually, according to Mike Brown you would have been extremely lucky to find him physically present at the observatory. He visited the telescope twice during the seven year project, almost all of the work being done remotely.

The discovery of Eris in January of 2005 and subsequent discoveries by Brown et al. have revealed to us a larger solar system encompassing more objects, and more kinds of objects, than the one many of us grew up with. One of the main messages drawn from the lecture is that anyone observing the solar system as a whole today would see 4 kinds of significantly large objects orbiting around the Sun: small rocky planets, plenty of tiny asteroids, giant gas planets and now the relatively very small rocky bodies that we call the dwarf planets; and that’s okay, because it makes good sense!

So when people complain about Pluto being “downgraded”, I tell them to look at it this way: Pluto was not demoted, rather, it was made king of its own domain, the First of the Dwarf Planets!

Other interesting tidbits about the project:

  • The team had to build their own CCD camera to suit the needs of the work, resulting in the largest CCD of its time “pieced together with tape and bailing wire”.
  • This was the first time since 1930 that anyone had covered so much sky in a telescopic survey.
  • After confirming the existence of Eris, Brown’s team painstakingly searched through pictures of the same part of the sky taken by other researchers in the past. They discovered that the first images of the object to become known as Eris were actually taken in a series of prints from 1950 that were part of a sky survey done at the Palomar Observatory, using the very same telescope that Brown’s team used to find it in 2005.
  • For a while after its discovery, Eris was informally named Xena after the TV show character. Later, when Eris was discovered to have a moon it was named Dysnomia, the name of the daughter of the Greek goddess, Eris. Dysnomia means “Lawlessness” and, as everyone knows, the actress that played Xena is named Lucy Lawless. For more naming fun, you should see the lecture.

You can watch the lecture online at the below link:

http://earth.rice.edu/marlar/Marlar2010/index.html

Trust me it is worth your time!

 

Here is Mike Brown’s blog page for first-hand Kuiper Belt, Trans-Neptunian, Dwarf Planet information & more:

http://www.mikebrownsplanets.com/

 

Also, I’d like to announce that Dr. Mike Brown will be a keynote speaker at Space Center Houston’s Annual Space Exploration Educator’s Conference next year (SEEC 2011). For more info on SEEC 2011 check out this link:

http://www.spacecenter.org/teachersSEEC.html

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Doreen

The Discovery Center of Idaho

Our Mission

Inspire lifelong interest and learning in science, technology, engineering and math.

Vision Statement

  • DCI is an interactive science center providing exhibits and educational programs that offer authentic, sensory experiences making the sciences, technology, engineering and math tangible.
  • DCI fosters lifelong learning and enhances scientific literacy in a collaborative environment for people of all ages and from all walks of life.
  • DCI celebrates the pure joy of learning and helps to develop an educated workforce and an informed electorate in stewardship of our planet.
  • DCI is built on cooperative partnerships with education, industry and research organizations, public and private.
  • DCI will showcase its philosophy and objectives and reflect the region’s resources through its programs, exhibits and architecture.

History

The Discovery Center of Idaho opened to the public on January 15, 1989. It began with an idea conceived by the Junior League of Boise and the next six years were spent bringing this idea to life. Through countless hours of volunteer effort, the current location was selected through the generosity of the City of Boise, and has proven to be a great location and an even greater affiliation with the other public institutions in and around Julia Davis Park. Today, the Discovery Center welcomes over 100,000 people annually and has over 160 hands-on exhibits, and has seen well over 1,000,000 visitors since 1989.

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mgreer

Opening Events at The Anchorage Museum

OPENING CELEBRATION
Be the first to see the Anchorage Museum's newest attractions at an opening celebration on Saturday, May 22. This fun-filled event celebrates the completion of the museum expansion and the grand opening of four new spaces: Imaginarium Discovery Center, Thomas Planetarium, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center and ConocoPhillips Gallery.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., visitors will enjoy live music and dance, demonstrations, talks, book signings and hands-on art, history and science activities for kids. Esteemed museum benefactors, elected officials and the expansion project team will speak at a noon ceremony.

Don't miss headlining act The Git-hoan Dancers, a Tsimshian dance group led by renowned carver David Boxley. The group is Seattle-based, but most of the dancers trace their ancestry to southeast Alaska. Dancing in their striking, carved masks, the performers relay Tsimshian legends such as Mouse Woman and the Cannibal Giant.

The day's activities also include Alaska Native games and dancing by the Alaska Native Heritage Center, wild bird presentations by the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, and a sneak peek at this summer's planetarium shows.

PLAN YOUR VISIT
HOURS: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 22

ADMISSION: Everyone needs a ticket to this event. Museum members are admitted free. Save time and print your tickets at home General admission is $10 adult, $8 student/senior/military, $7 ages 3 to 12, free ages 2 and younger.  Become a member or renew your membership on May 22 and receive two additional months free.

PARKING: The museum garage will be closed for this event. Free handicapped parking will be available on Sixth and Seventh avenues between C and A streets. Other parking within two blocks of the museum includes free street parking, a pay lot at Sixth Avenue and B Street, and the parking garages at the Fifth Avenue Mall and JC Penney.

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AndrewatLSC

Announcement from the Louisville Science Center

 

Mission: Science Literacy Louisville Science Center announces strategic platform, powerful lineup of new exhibits Louisville, KY ( Stardate: April 8, 2010 ) – Today the Louisville Science Center announced its new strategic direction and a powerful lineup of new exhibits featured in the next year. The Science Center, which has been historically committed to science literacy, is expanding its capacity as a leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – skills that are critical to workforce development and innovation, preparing future leaders for the opportunities and challenges of the 21 st century. Over the past year, the Science Center has enhanced its programmatic efforts and offerings, including seasonal Family Science Drop-In Events, a broad array of science camps, the introduction of 5,300 square feet in its new Science Education Wing, and an overall ramped up commitment to science literacy. The Science Center has also worked to be a catalyst for creative, open-minded thinking about science issues that can often be controversial through an adult dialogue series called Scientific Proofs, which launched in November with a conversation on health care reform.

 

"Science literacy is about empowering individuals and communities to ask questions, think creatively, solve problems and work toward a better quality of life for all," said Science Center Executive Director Joanna Haas. "We are working every day to ignite our community on that front, to encourage a buzz about science, and to create new levels of insight, engagement and understanding of science literacy." Mayor Jerry Abramson said, "There is no question that we need higher levels of educational attainment and overall science literacy in our community, region and state. Increasing interest in science, math, technology and engineering by engaging children at young ages will lead to future innovations that will impact not only our community but our world." The Science Center also announced a new lineup of exhibits, beginning with

Robots: The Interactive Exhibition (which opened March 20) and continuing July 3 with Sesame Street: Presents the Body, followed in January 2011 with Star Trek: The Exhibition , and capped off in June 2011 with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition , based on the timeless works of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia . This exhibit lineup follows the unprecedented attendance experienced during the run of Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition , which was open October 3, 2009 – March 7, 2010. Nearly 80,000 people experienced the exhibition and total Science Center attendance increased 80 percent. "With this powerful lineup of exhibits, people will have even more great reasons to visit Louisville," said Jim Wood, president and CEO of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We expect a huge regional draw for these exhibitions and also expect that, with more people vacationing close to home, that Louisvillians will come out in force to support such great things to do here in our own backyard."

About the Louisville Science Center

( www.LouisvilleScience.org) The Louisville Science Center is a nonprofit educational institution that encourages people of all ages to enjoy science, mathematics and technology in a stimulating and engaging environment that is educational as well as entertaining. Designated the "State Science Center of Kentucky" by the 2002 Kentucky General Assembly, the Louisville Science Center features interactive exhibits and engaging programs for children, families and adults. The Louisville Science Center is committed to growing a scientifically literate community that investigates, questions, and challenges.

 

(
www.LouisvilleScience.org) The Louisville Science Center is a nonprofit educational institution that encourages people of all ages to enjoy science, mathematics and technology in a stimulating and engaging environment that is educational as well as entertaining. Designated the "State Science Center of Kentucky" by the 2002 Kentucky General Assembly, the Louisville Science Center features interactive exhibits and engaging programs for children, families and adults. The Louisville Science Center is committed to growing a scientifically literate community that investigates, questions, and challenges.

 

About the Louisville Science Center

( www.LouisvilleScience.org) The Louisville Science Center is a nonprofit educational institution that encourages people of all ages to enjoy science, mathematics and technology in a stimulating and engaging environment that is educational as well as entertaining. Designated the "State Science Center of Kentucky" by the 2002 Kentucky General Assembly, the Louisville Science Center features interactive exhibits and engaging programs for children, families and adults. The Louisville Science Center is committed to growing a scientifically literate community that investigates, questions, and challenges.

 

(
www.LouisvilleScience.org) The Louisville Science Center is a nonprofit educational institution that encourages people of all ages to enjoy science, mathematics and technology in a stimulating and engaging environment that is educational as well as entertaining. Designated the "State Science Center of Kentucky" by the 2002 Kentucky General Assembly, the Louisville Science Center features interactive exhibits and engaging programs for children, families and adults. The Louisville Science Center is committed to growing a scientifically literate community that investigates, questions, and challenges.

 

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lhughes

Terre Haute Children's Museum - Terre Haute, Indiana

Since it opened its doors in 1988, the Terre Haute Children’s Museum has been committed to creating a fun, dynamic science and technology learning environment for the young people in our community, and in September, the museum will move to a new 26,000-square-foot facility filled with hands-on exhibits that are designed to spark an interest in science, technology engineering and math.

 

Some of the exhibits that are being planned for the new museum include a two-story tree house, an energy exhibit, a dinosaur dig, a water table, a robotic arm, space exhibits, a TV/weather studio, a seashell exhibit, a construction zone, a health exhibit, and a group of exhibits about airplanes and flight. In the future, the museum also hopes to offer unique, age-appropriate health education programs .

 

One of our most anticipated exhibits is our agriculture exhibit, which will include opportunities for visitors to “ drive” a tractor and combine, crank an auger, see a working beehive, milk a cow, and much more as they explore their way to understanding how science and technology play a role in agriculture today. To our knowledge, this is the only agriculture exhibit in the state.

 

As a  Children’s Museum committed to enriching “our children's lives through the exploration of science and technology,” we want to play a significant role in increasing STEM literacy so that all students can learn deeply and think critically in science, math, engineering, and technology. We want to spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and math so that our children will have a better chance of achieving future classroom and career success, and we look forward to sharing our new museum with the the children and families that live and visit our community.

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