Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Guest Post - Lunar Eclipses

Today we have a guest post by Tom Miller, a member of the Cache Stargazers, an astronomy club in Cache Valley, UT & ID. The club meets on the 2nd Friday of each month in the Physics Conference Room at Utah State University. When the weather allows, they often get to use the USU Observatory after the meeting.

And now, Tom's Post:


Why Total Lunar Eclipses look the totally awesome way they do

(Explanation of Lunar Eclipse Colors)

by, Tom Miller

To really understand and visualize the how and why of the sometimes vivid colors of the partially and especially totally eclipsed moon (which we'll hopefully see next week at December's full moon), just imagine yourself on the moon during the eclipse, watching that same eclipse from the lunar perspective, reversed from Earth. From the moon you would be watching a total solar eclipse with the sun going behind the Earth. Remember, the Earth appears 4 times larger across in the lunar sky than the moon appears in the Earth sky! But the sun still appears almost practically the same size as the sun and moon appear from Earth.

Relax and imagine what you would see, watching the sun disappear (or lets even say "set") behind the Earth in your jet-black lunar sky. Less and less of the sun lights up your lunar surroundings as the sun slides slowly behind the Earth in your alien sky. As the moment of totality approaches from where you relax on the moon, your surroundings grow darker grey with some slight yellowish and orange color now added to the moon-scape around you. If you block the glaring bit of remaining sun from your view you can see the rest of the Earth before totality, or at least a thin brightening ring of sunset defining where the dark Earth is.

As the sun finally and fully disappears (that part can take about an hour) behind the Earth in your lunar sky, you now clearly see that bright, full and very thin ring of sunset brightly surrounding whole darkened "New Earth" phase of the Earth. You would now be able to see some city lights doting the night side of the Earth which fully faces you. The sunset ring near the edge of the Earth where the sun just disappeared looks much brighter and more yellow because the sun just "set" there, while parts of the whole sunset ring around the Earth further from there look less and less bright and more orange and even reddish, much like a sunset looks on Earth, also depending on the amount of smoke, dust and other sunset reddening factors in Earth's atmosphere at the time, as you would expect to see on Earth at sunset as the sun slips a little further below the horizon of Earth.

And that's why the moon looks the very nice yellow to orange to even reddish colors it does during a total lunar eclipse, lit by a bright ring of Earth sunset as seen from the moon. From Earth you will watch this lunar eclipse cross part of the sky as the Earth turns from beginning to end of lunar eclipse. But, from the moon, the Earth would stay at a fairly stationary spot in your lunar sky while the sun appears to move behind the earth, making just over one 360 degree circle of the lunar sky per Earth month while the Earth remains fairly stationary while going through the same phases we are familiar with the moon going through as seen from Earth.


Thanks! Tom.

If you have any questions, please e-mail Tom

Monday, November 29, 2010

Presenting, again & at last

The Thursday before Thanksgiving was the first school presentations in over a year. We have a new format now, since the Jr Engineering equipment all got sold to a school in Idaho. Now I am taking only a laptop to the schools. This laptop has on it an open-source program called Stellarium. "Stellarium is planetarium software that shows exactly what you see when you look up at the stars. It's easy to use, and free."1. I can control time, show artwork for multiple cultures star lore, and even travel to Mars in my presentations with Stellarium.

On the 18th of December, I gave presentations at Sunrise Elementary School in Smithfield, UT for grades K-5. They went very well. For Kindergarten, 1st, & 2nd grade, I tell the Greek & Iraquois stories of the Big Bear, and the story of Andromeda & the Sea Monster for late fall/early winter. For 3rd grade, I do a presentation on the planets, which includes zooming in on Jupiter & the Galilean Moons, Saturn, and Mars, then changing our location to the Spirit landing site and looking back at Earth. For 4th grade, I do a presentation on the Navajo Skies, matching their social studies curriculum rather than the science curriculum. For 5th grade, I give a general planetarium, introduction to the night sky presentation, what stars/constellations/planets are currently visible in the evening, how to find them, and a little bit of information about them.

Today, I gave a presentation at Wilson Elementary in Logan, UT. Wilson does things a little bit different than most other schools. During the last 30 minutes of the school day, a different grade has time for special presentations each day. The teachers get collaboration time, and the students meet with the Library, Music, PE, & Computer specialists, and often they will bring in people to do special presentations or do art projects. This week, I am doing the presentations, and today was 5th grade. It didn't go so well, though. We couldn't get the computer to talk to the projector. So I had to wing it. I talked to the students a bit about light pollution, and then drew the Dippers on the board, showing them how to find Polaris, and then connecting the dots for Ursa Major, and I even tried to draw Ursa Minor. The kids kept talking to their neighbors, or if I asked them to raise their hands to answer a question, a bunch of them just shouted it out. It was rather annoying, but I can't really blame them because the equipment was not working. After school, the Music specialist & I did manage to get the computer to talk to her classroom projector (which is portable), so when I get there tomorrow and the rest of the week, I will just go into her room & get her projector, and hopefully, it will be working for the rest of the presentations. But just in case, I'm going to look for all the various NASA pictures I have collected over the years and take those with me as a backup.

1. quote from the website.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Getting the Word Out

Yesterday I was substituting at River Heights Elementary, one of the schools I had taken the Jr Engineering StarLab to in 2009. One of the teachers at lunch was talking about when to schedule taking his class down to the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake. I told him how we're working to get a planetarium here in Cache Valley, and about the Faraday's Holiday Event we are planning for December 28. That's right, we have a date. It will be at the Whittier Center once again, from 7pm - 8:30pm. I still have to take the check to the Whittier Center, but if everybody's schedules work out, I hope to be able to do that today. Then we start "officially" advertising it. I'll put it on Facebook, on both the StarHouse Discovery Center group page and my page. I'll also look into putting it as an event that people can RSVP to. I'll post it on Twitter, at the public library, look into getting it on the marquee at the Opera House in Downtown Logan, and of course update our website.

Last year, we had 80 people come to the event, and 7 booths of organizations presenting their work. This year, we hope to have more.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lazy & Links

So I said I was going to write more. Yesterday, I worked on the StarHouse Discovery Center and Cote du Ciel websites, & got started writing grants. I should probably spend more time today writing grants, but I don't want to. Part of that is that Walmart requires a non-profit organization to already be on the IRS's published list of 501(c)3 organizations. We're not, yet, but our paperwork is in, & we've heard back from the IRS. Apparently, our application is in review, but one of three things will happen to it: 1] it will be approved, 2] it will be approved with changes, or 3] they will assign someone to work with us to get it to the point that it can be approved. This sounds to me like the IRS wants to approve 501(c)3 applications on a general principal, and understands that most people don't understand the tax code at all. If either of those were not true, then there would be no reason for them to work with us to get our application to the point that it can be approved.

Meanwhile, some cool links:

  • Women in Wetlands a few months ago posted a book review, about a young woman who loves chemistry, & uses it to solve a mystery.
  • a friend from the SCA, Ray Zentz got a job offer he couldn't refuse, but too far to commute every day. They didn't have time to find a new home, so they're camping in a yurt in another friend's backyard for the winter! In northern Utah!
  • another SCA friend is teaching astronomy in high school, but her degree is in biology & chemistry. I sent her to the Open High School Earth Systems course for a text book, and Stellarium, 'cause it's fun & free.
  • Saturday, September 25, 2010

    More Writing

    So I recently found the Women in Wetlands blog, and she has a whole series on how scientists have to write (& publish) and suggestions to help people write better. One of her suggestions was to make writing a priority, & the first thing you do when you sit down to work. That way, everything that contributes to procrastinating become interruptions. So I'm going to try that. If I don't have work substituting, then the first thing I do each day will be writing. I may not always write on the blog (I started a story about 10 years ago, this would be a good opportunity to get back to it), sometimes I may be updating content on the StarHouse Discovery Center or the Shire of Cote du Ciel websites, but I'm going to make writing my first priority when I sit down at the computer. I may actually get some grants written, so we can then get a new portable planetarium and start delivering content to the schools once again! I think I will start right now.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Giant Star Party Morning After

    Last night was the Giant Star Party at the American West Heritage Center. From what I could see, it was a big success. There were wagon rides, story telling, about half a dozen telescopes, a glow-in-the-dark tea party, space-related crafts, & a gunfight! I gave star show presentations using a freeware planetarium simulation software, Stellarium. I gave four presentations, & had between 15-20 people at each one. I'm not sure how many people total came to the star party, I'm going to have to get a hold of David & Chris at the AWHC to find out exactly how many people came. It looked like there was well over a hundred people watching the gunfight at 10 pm, though. The event wasn't officially over until midnight, but most of the activities ended at 11 pm, & most people started leaving then, so that's when we started cleaning up. I had everything (papers scattered across 4 tables, money from donations, lightning ball, hydraulic robot, Galileoscope, Leonardo bridge, pens, jars, basket, Arno's laptop, my own 8" Dobsonian telescope, dinner, extra clothes to deal with the change in temperature, and multiple boxes & bags for everything to pack into) back into my Bug by 12:30 am (Saturday). I've said it before, & I'll say it again, Bugs are awesome. When I unpacked it before the party started, the people who saw everything come out were amazed. I love my Bug.

    Once I've had a chance to process everything, I'll post a report on the success of the Giant Star Party. Hope to see you there next year.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Giant Star Party

    Yesterday I had a meeting with David Sidwell & Chris Schultz from the American West Heritage Center about their Giant Star Party on August 13th. Today I have been following up on that. I sent an email to the Cache Valley Stargazers to find out if they would be willing to change their already scheduled star party on August 13th from Mt Logan Park to the AWHC, and heard back from one person who is in favor of it. I found out Arno already has Stellarium on his laptop, so I will be able to use that for my presentations. I really like
    Stellarium because it has artwork available for a variety of cultures mythology, not just the Ancient Greeks. Also, it's open source, and so free! And easy to use. It also has a "red-eye" mode, so you could take a computer out stargazing, and be able to use it without losing your night vision. I found 9 paper models from NASA, ranging from a bird to the space shuttle. I still need to contact the GAS team & SPS, as well as the outreach people from SDL & ATK.

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Stupid Computer

    Today I spend the whole day finishing up my application for the NASA AU Ambassador training program. It's due by Wednesday, in Washington, DC, & they need both an e-mail copy & a hard copy. I figured a couple hours to answer the last couple of questions & email it off, quick run to the store to get new ink for my printer, then get to the post office by 2pm to mail it. Murphy had other ideas. My computer kept freezing. Fortunately, I was on top of saving my work every couple of sentences, so I never lost any work. It just took most of the day to get even close to the point of being done. Finally I gave up for a couple of hours, went to the store to get the printer ink, and took my time walking home to try and exercise the stress out of me. And so by the time I got the e-mail sent off & the application printed, it was a quarter to 6. That's the time the last mail goes out from the post office here in Logan. So I e-mailed the rest of the StarHouse Discovery Center board to ask approval to send the application FedEx. It was approved, so after dinner I sent it off. I'm still stressing, though. I know I shouldn't be, but what can you do?

    On the plus side, I will be teaching an astronomy class tomorrow evening for teenage girls at camp. I always enjoy getting out into the wilderness, looking at the stars, & teaching, so by tomorrow night, I should be feeling good again.

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Success in Small Steps

    The last day of Summer Astronomy Camp did not go off without a hitch, but it did go well. Stellarium hadn't been installed on the computers, so I tried calling the guy again, but only got voicemail. So we went outside, and I taught the kids to find an object with a small telescope or binoculars, then to align a finder scope with a bigger scope, and find an object in the large scope using the finder scope. Almost started a fire when I was showing them how to move the big scope around by accidentally pointing it at the Sun for a few seconds. But never heard back from the guy, so when we were done with that, we went down to the computer lab, and I showed them the website for Stellarium so they could get it at home. It's Open Source, by the way. Then we used the screenshots so they could see some of what Stellarium does, and I could tell them a bit about the controls. At the very end of the class, I had them all fill out a short survey about the camp, what they liked, what they would like to see in the future, that sort of thing. I haven't looked at the surveys, yet, partly because I was at Uprising, and partly because I want to have some space before I look at them. Since I kept this blog, I'm not too worried about forgetting things by the time I look at the survey. Except maybe which kid was which. I asked them NOT to put their names on the surveys, but I really don't want to know who said what.

    Immediately upon finishing the class, I hurried home, put the telescopes away, and my husband and I headed off for Uprising. We got there just in time for dinner, missed court because we were setting up camp (it's very important to set up camp before dark), but I still had a couple of hours before it got dark enough for my class. It was intended for anyone, but got announced as a kid's activity, so most of the people there were kids, with a few parents along for the ride. The temperature was nice, we lasted about an hour before people started wanting to get back to campfires, myself included. There was one kid who kept interrupting, wanting to ask questions or add stuff about something I planned to talk about after first introducing a few basic concepts, to help people understand the later stuff better. It's cool when kids are so interested in things, but kind of frustrating when you know other people will be totally lost if you let things skip around too much. Oh well. The class went well overall, and I even had people all the rest of the weekend telling me they had wanted to come but either couldn't find us or thought it was just for kids. I guess I'll just have to volunteer to teach it again next year.

    The best success of the last week, though has been that I've got another opportunity to teach. Girl's Camp, for the teenage girls at church, is next week, and the leader has asked me to come up and give an astronomy class for them. We're planning on Tuesday for that, weather permitting. I'll post here afterward about how that goes.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Sun, Rain, & More Sun

    Today, the main activity I had planned was making sextants & trying them out. It looked like it was going to be a nice day, but 5 minutes after we went outside, it started raining. So we went back in & made sundials. By then it had stopped raining, so we went back outside, this time to the football field. And it started raining again. By the time most of the kids had all four of the measurements I wanted them to take, someone from the school came out to say we needed to stay off the field and track while they are wet. So we went as far as the asphalt, let the last few kids take their last measurement, then went back inside.

    Michelle Larson, an adjunct professor from the USU Physics Department came and spoke for about half an hour about how she became an astronomer. She shared some images from the Yohkoh Public Outreach Project which she worked on. She brought a sunspots in visible light and X-rays matching game, which each student was able to take home with them, and a Solar Storm puzzle.

    After Michelle left, we still had 45 minutes, and everything I had planned was already done, including the "extra, just in case things take less time than expected" sundials. So I gave everybody a blank sheet of paper, & used the overhead projector to explain, briefly, how telescopes work, & the three main types of telescopes. I drew, & had the kids copy, a diagram of a refractor telescope, a reflector telescope, and a catadioptic telescope. I passed my binoculars around as an example of a pair of small refractors, and showed them some of my sketches of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, & Saturn that I had made using my 8" Dob.

    I am going to get paid for teaching this summer camp. I found out today that I need to turn in an invoice to the Logan City School District for it. So after I got home today, I made that up. I also made a survey for the kids to fill out at the end of the day tomorrow. Getting paid for doing what you love is awesome.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Around the World in 50 Minutes

    Today in Astronomy Camp, I put a list of a bunch of topics in astronomy history up for the kids to see, & had them pick one. I also let only one kid have any given topic. There were 23 things on the list, & only 10 kids in the class, so there was plenty to choose from. Six kids wanted Ancient Greek Astronomy! So I had all six choose a second topic, & said that possibly one of them could do Ancient Greek Astronomy, depending on what else got picked. The very next topic, two of those kids wanted, so I let them decide between themselves who was going to do which. Another kid, though, all he wanted to do was Greek Astronomy, & nothing else. Since he wouldn't pick something else, I used the rand() function in a spreadsheet program to pick one for him. I think that kid was one who, during introductions yesterday, had said his parents' were making him come to Astronomy Camp. The entire time he was resistant to doing anything.

    Once all the kids had picked a topic, we went down to the computer lab. Starting with Astronomy for Kids, they each read about the topic they had chosen, then used Google searches to find pictures, and sometimes more information, about their topic. I gave them an hour and a half to work on that, & those who finished sooner were given the choice of doing a second topic, or playing on Flash Planetarium, which I had used yesterday to help them learn to use their planispheres. They used a word processing program to make some notes & save their pictures, which I then saved to my jump drive. The last hour of Camp today, we went back to the classroom, I plugged my jump drive into the computer there that was connected to the projector, & they each gave a little 5 minute presentation on their topic.

    I also did some preparation for the next couple of days. Tomorrow, Michelle Larson from the USU Physics Department, is coming to talk to the kids for about half an hour, so I talked to her about that, & also gave her directions to the room. I also talked to the Logan District Computer Specialists & arranged to get Stellarium on some computers for Thursday.

    I think things are going really well.

    ps. There is also a Harry Potter Camp going on at the same time, except it is 5 weeks long. They are mostly doing science activities. I talked to the guy in charge, & they are spending a week on astronomy. I got his e-mail address, so I'm going to try to keep in touch with him over the next year, & maybe get to be part of that next year.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    So Far, So Good

    Friday was the first Cache Valley Stargazers meeting I made it to in a long time. It was also the last one until fall. There are several star parties scheduled over the summer, though. On July 9, there will be one out at Newton Reservoir. The rest will be held at Mt Logan Park on:
  • 18 June,
  • 16 July,
  • 6 & 13 August,
  • 10 & 17 September.

    The Star Parties are scheduled to start at 9:30pm.

    Saturday afternoon, there was a Family & Children's Expo up at Utah State University. We had a booth, & probably about 100 people came by. A few kids tried out the Galileoscope or the Electromagnet, but the big hit was the Hydrolic Robot. It uses syringes with colored water to move various hinges, like an arm. The challenge for the kids was to work together to make the robot pick up Legos or pens & drop them in a box.

    The Star Trek clubs in Northern Utah had a Giant Star Party scheduled all last weekend. My husband went with me out there on Saturday evening for dinner & visiting. Since is was overcast, we played a fast Star Wars Roleplaying Game round, which was fun. About 11:00, a few of the clouds cleared out, & we were able to see, in turn, Ophiucus, Scorpius, Delphinus, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, & Lyra. It never got clear enough to set up telescopes, though.

    Today was the first day of the Astronomy Summer Camp. There were a dozen kids signed up. Today we did introductions, made planispheres and practiced using the planispheres with Flash Planetarium. Then we went outside and did some Kinesthetic Astronomy-type activities. I think it went well, and hope the next three days will also go well. I'll let you know tomorrow & Wednesday. Thursday, as soon as camp is over, I will be heading to Uprising, where I will also be teaching an astronomy class. I'll let you know how that goes next Monday.

  • Friday, June 4, 2010


    The 501(c)3 application is finally complete. By Monday, it will be in the mail. This means we can finally start applying for grants. Time to start writing. :-)

    After our board meeting this afternoon, I went out to the Logan Airport for the Celebration of Flight. Got to see a B-17 Flying Fortress: probably one of the coolest planes ever. I also talked to a number of people, pilots, a guy from Exxon, a Civil Air Patrol major, & a lady from Channel 8 KUTA. I left business cards with most of these people, and the lady from Channel 8 would like to have me come in to the studio to talk about the upcoming events we are going to be involved with.

    We are going to be very busy in the coming weeks. On 12 June, we will be at the Family & Children's Expo, part of USU's Unlocking Your Child’s Potential Conference. That same evening, I will be out in Trenton, UT at a Giant Star Party for all of the Northern Utah Star Trek Clubs. Then starting on Monday, 14 June, Neil Dabb & I will be teaching at a summer camp for Logan City's Gifted & Talented elementary students. The camp will run for four days. Neil will teach in the mornings about weather, & I will teach in the afternoons about Astronomy. As soon as I am done on Thursday, I will be taking off for Firth, ID, where I will be teaching a Beginning Astronomy class for the Society of Creative Anachronism. And before all of that starts, next Friday, the 11th, is the monthly Cache Valley Stargazers meeting.

    I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. This seems like a lot to do, in a very short time, & I only have a week to prepare.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    sitting in school

    When I'm not working on the planetarium, I substitute teach. Many times I see kids standing up, hunched over their desk to work. Sometimes the kids aren't even aware that they have stood up, other times they say they can think better standing up. Except they're not even standing up, they're hunched over to write.

    It is true that for many children, especially those whose primary learning mode is kinesthetic, or those with ADHD, standing up helps them focus. But they block the view of the children behind them, & leave their chair sticking out in the walkway for the teacher to trip over when trying to help other children (or in middle schools, where the desk is attached to the chair, the student is blocking the walkway himself). Plus, they're hunched over.

    As you can probably tell, this bugs me. Today I thought of a possible solution: lab benches. Have a few desks available for every elementary school classroom that can be set at the equivalent of counter-height for the kid. Have a stool available, so that if they want to sit, they can, but either have no back or a low enough back that the stool can be pushed completely under the desk when the child wants to stand. Put all of the "lab benches" either in the back or down one side of the room to avoid blocking other students' view of the board/teacher/screen.

    I doubt anyone will take this idea seriously, but I felt like I needed to share it.

    Friday, April 16, 2010


    We have plans going forward on several fronts. The first is to get the 501(c)3 paperwork finished, so we can then start applying for grants lots of places. The second is a presence at upcoming events put on by several other entities in the area. The third is the possibility of getting a site & possibly a building. Fourth, we are looking into the possibility of sponsoring a writing contest.

    The 501(c)3 status: it's going forward, slowly. As usual. One of these days we'll actually get it finished. We got a letter from some legal company offering to help with it. They didn't say so in the letter, but I'm sure it would cost us some money, & we're already most of the way done as it is.

    Upcoming events: I will be manning a booth for the local Renaissance Faire on May 22, 2010 at the Whittier Center. My booth will be making portable sundials. I did this last Saturday as a workshop for kids of the regional group of the Society for Creative Anachronism. It was a big hit. There is also Physics Day at Lagoon, sponsored by the USU Physics Department. We also decided that we should let the various schools know that we are available for & would like to participate in judging the Science Fairs. My task is to talk to some of the high school photo/multimedia teachers I know & see if they would be willing to have their classes work on some signage for us.

    Site & Building: It's going to be years, yet, before we actually have a permanent building, but meanwhile, there is the Discovery simulator, which was built in a trailer home. The USU Trailer Park is slowly emptying out, but the university doesn't have current plans for that area. There also happens to be a community center in the Trailer Park. A woman from USU Housing will be at our next meeting in two weeks to discuss the possibility of us renting a pad for the trailer and using the community center as a classroom, so that we could run missions next school year. We also have a concept sketch for a building, & are looking into the possibility of having the CAD class at one of the local high schools make up some 3-D computer models for us.

    Writing Contest: This would happen next year, students would be able to enter some form of technical writing, we would probably have several genre categories, as well as grade level categories. We would need to get the teachers behind this. From my experience with the RFF contests for CONduit, if the teacher is not encouraging the students to participate, then no students will enter.

    So, there you have it. Progress is still slow, but it is happening. I'm going to get those building concept sketches up on the website this weekend.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    missed meeting

    I've missed the last couple of StarHouse Discovery Center meetings, going to math workshops & such to keep my teaching certificate current, so here's the report on the last meeting from Neil Dabb.

      Here's what we did on the 2nd of April in our meeting.

      We reviewed the current draft of the Business plan and brainstormed a few additional ideas for funding etc. We also reviewed the drawings of the building and lot layout I sent out.

      Arno is going to get the final draft of the plan finished and will send it out to us a couple days before he sends it to the IRS so we can double check things. He is also going to invite Kimberly Lott from the education department at USU to our next meeting. She has experience setting up programs like ours, and should be able to help us with the class we hope to offer as well.

      Our next meeting will be April 16 at 3:30 at the ERA office. Email me if there is anything we need to discuss or know about before then.



    I better remember to get to the next one.

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    home science experiment

    A science experiment idea from Neil Dabb, one of the other people working on the StarHouse Discovery Center.

    SCIENCE!!: While I was doing some research on air I came across several references to a myth that hot water will freeze faster than cold. Some referred to this as the Mpemba effect and that it stemmed from a young boy in Africa (named Mpemba) who did some experiments to prove this. Many “scientists” tried to duplicate the findings. While many of them were unable to duplicate this experiment, others have determined that there may be some validity depending on what is in the water (for example, we know that salt water freezes at a much lower temperature than fresh water), atmospheric and other conditions. Something as simple as the shape of the container may affect how fast the water freezes.

    While the science behind this phenomenon is complex, the experiments themselves can easily be done by the youngest of students. And this can be a great introduction to the scientific method, and making sure there is only one difference between the various test samples. The water in one country obviously will have different impurities than the water in another country. The barometric pressure changes from day to day. All of these things will need to be taken into account, but this effect happens sometimes and we still aren’t sure why. Perhaps some of your classes would like to see if they can figure it out.

    Give it a try, see what you come up with

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Friday Surprise

    This week I was substituting for James at Thomas Edison Charter School, while he was in D.C. After school, I met with Neil, Arno, & Levi Arno had the surprise. Before Jr Engineering shut down, he had contacted Energy Solutions about possible funding. A couple of weeks ago, he contacted them again, to let them know that Jr Engineering had been shut down, and that we are working to continue the mission of bringing hands-on science education to elementary schools in the intermountain west. The main thing he wanted was to let them know how to contact us. They sent us $1,000!

    Thank you, Energy Solutions!

    We took a picture of the four of us with the check, which will be posted on our website as soon as I get the file from Arno.

    My current task is to track down the rumor that as part of the International Year of Astronomy, each state would be able to get a StarLab portable planetarium. No one knows where the one for Utah is. We think it should have gone to Weber State University, but Stacy Pallin, the astronomy professor there, hasn't heard anything about it. So now I need to try and track down where the ones for Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, & Wyoming were supposed to go. Since we are planning on serving students in all five states, we might as well try to get resources from all five as well.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Luckily, I'm not sick

    But it seems like just about everyone else is. Only three of us showed up for the meeting early Tuesday morning., & one of the missing sick ones was Arno, who's working on the 501(c)3 forms. Meanwhile, I've been substitute teaching almost every day (including Monday, so it was a REALLY short meeting). I've been telling teachers at every school the last few days what happened with the Jr Engineering & Cache StarHouse programs, & about the StarHouse Discovery Center & what our current status is. It seems like there is at least one teacher at every school who recognizes me from the StarHouse last year, even if they can't remember where they recognize me from. The coolest is when a student recognizes me. I was substituting in a 2nd grade class today, & that happened!

    I've also been working on the StarHouse Discovery Center webpage. I'm trying to learn how to do forms so that people can enter their contact info & type a message to us right from the webpage. I think I need to learn some Java to be able to do it, though.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    LtUE, report

    Last weekend was the annual Life, the Universe, & Everything Science Fiction & Fantasy Symposium at Brigham Young University. I presented on Friday about the StarHouse Discovery Center, and on Saturday, I gave a workshop with some of our equipment. It was a lot of fun. The only problem was that all the teachers from the Educator's Conference on Saturday disappeared while I was setting up the equipment. But then all the Gofers came, & they really enjoyed. Gofers are the volunteers that make sure the panelists & presenters have everything they need - they "go fer this, & go fer that." Most of the Gofers at LtUE are the teenage children of former (& sometimes present) committee members. LtUE is primarily put on by BYU students who enjoy science fiction & fantasy. Some of the panels I attended were Creating Historical Costuming, Using 3D Image Editing Software, World Building, and Filking. Filking is Science, Science Fiction, & Fantasy folk singing. My Dan was with me, which made this year WAY more awesome than previous years, & on Saturday, we took one of our nieces along, too. She's almost eight, & takes art lessons. There were a bunch of art panels on Saturday, & she attended them, really enjoyed herself, & made a cartoon of her own. The Symposium always ends in a banquet, & this year it was held at the Skyroom on BYU campus. Yummy food, good friends, & meeting new, like-minded people - what more can you ask?

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010


    I'll be at Life, the Universe, and Everything this weekend.

    This is a FREE Science Fiction & Fantasy Symposium. I will be presenting about the StarHouse Discovery Center on Friday, & conducting a teachers' workshop on a few of the modules for the Jr Science & Astronomy outreach program on Saturday.

    Hope to see you there!

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Moving Forward

    Today was our actual meeting with James from Cache Valley Space Education Center. M.Robin was also there. We've decided we do want to include the simulator as part of our program - and are going to be spending the next few weeks looking into places we could move it to and run programs. The 501(c)3 application is almost ready, so we will soon be sending in grant applications. We're also going to look into the possibility of setting up a payment plan with USU to buy the Jr Engineering equipment. We also discussed the possibility of working with the high schools in the area for some design work and possible collaborations with various research groups in the region.

    Our next meeting is February 8, 2010 at 8:00 am. The location is not yet set.

    It was an excellent meeting, & very exciting, even if my reporting of it is not. I suppose I need to work on my writing skills. A good opportunity for that will be at LtUE February 11-13 at BYU. This Science Fiction Symposium is FREE, & I will be giving a presentation on the StarHouse Discovery Center on Friday, February 12th at 10:00 am. Hope to see you there!

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    For M.Robin

    The StarHouse is an attempt by a few former Jr Engineering employees & me to establish a planetarium & science museum here in Cache Valley, and keep a mobile, hands-on science program going for elementary school students in the region.

    We could use a student's perspective. Our next meeting's January 26 at 3:30pm. Email me for more info or if you'ld like to come.

    Too Excited

    Apparently, I'm a little too excited to get this thing under way. At least I'm not the only one. At our last board meeting, we decided that for our next one we wanted to meet with James Porter of Cache Valley Space Education Center. He teaches at Thomas Edison South, a local charter school, so we had to change the time to after school got out. Both James & I thought that meeting was supposed to happen today. It's not 'til next week. Argh! I want to get moving on things!

    Meanwhile, I had a brainstorm over the weekend. With the simulator, we could start running programs ASAP. All we need is power to it, and access to a classroom. Currently, it's located at North Cache 8-9 Center, & if we can't work out something with that school, we'll also need to move it, which requires a semi. James has some files about what it would cost to move it & run it, some of which he got from CMSEC, & which he has sent me copies of. I also have some files, which I need to share with him. Once we've both had a chance to look over all the files, next week, at the real meeting, we'll be able to talk over them with Neil & Arno, & hopefully move forward with this project of ours

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Parents in New Zealand

    I mentioned the other day that my parents are in New Zealand. I asked if they had been able to see the Southern Cross. I heard from them today, & here is their response:

      Hi, having a great time, the only night was clear for stars was Friday night and we did not know where the southern cross is ( I assume in trhe south but wwe are a little disoriented what with driving on the wrong side of the road sitting on the wrong side of the car-- it is even worse in the passenger seat. see ya later mom and dad

    I hope they've had a good time, in spite of the difficulty of being on the wrong side of the road.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Down Under

    So my parents are in New Zealand, & my Dad has a blog: The Trigator, but when I tried to make a comment on it, the link for comments wasn't available. 8-( In an e-mail from my Mom the other day, she mentioned that they might visit a planetarium down there. I want to know if they've managed to spot the Southern Cross. It's not as easy to find as the Big Dipper we have here in the Northern Hemisphere. I've had some opportunities to practice in the Clark Planetarium Dome, & with Stellarium. If I remember right, it's in the Milky Way, across from the Magellanic Clouds. Which is probably not a really useful description, but I'm having stupid computer problems, & Stellarium won't open, so that's completely from memory. I hope to one day visit the Southern Hemisphere so I can see it for myself.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Today's Meeting

    We had our semi-monthly board meeting today. We are planning some fundraising events for the coming year: in the spring a "bike-a-thon," a fancy dinner & silent auction in the summer, a "Fall Fling," and the Second Annual Faraday's Holiday Event. We've also received inquiries from several schools on when we'll be able to come visit them with the Jr Science & Astronomy program. The answer to that is "when we have the equipment." We have a few small activities, but nothing with the "WOW factor" - the main thing we need to get our hands on is a portable planetarium, such as a Geodome or StarLab. We are also making progress on filling out the 501(c)3 forms.

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    USU's New 'Scope

    Tonight was the monthly Cache Valley Stargazers meeting. We changed locations from Old Main to the Physics Building so we could have access to the new telescope that arrived on Tuesday. But first we had our regularly scheduled meeting, with Michelle Larson speaking on Solar Observing. She had diagrams of how to make a pinhole camera, a picture of one made using an oatmeal container, how to make a sundial, & how to make a solar filter for $15. Shane promised to put her slides on the Stargazers website, so as soon as those are up, I'll link to it.

    Now for the new 'scope. The freight elevator to get on the roof requires a key, so people can't just go up there whenever - someone from the USU Physics Department has to be with you. There were 23 of us who went up, & the scope is awesome! It's a 20-inch, Planewave Corrected Dall-Kirkham 'scope, with a parabolic primary mirror, a spherical secondary mirror, & a couple of lenses to correct the aberrations from the spherical mirror. We looked at the Orion Nebula, & most people went home after one look (it is -5°F after all). A few of us, including the 10 year old, stuck around for several looks, & then we aimed the 'scope at Mars. Couldn't see a whole lot of detail on either the Orion Nebula or Mars, but that was due to the H2O Nebula (or the haze in our atmosphere) :-). Mars looked bigger than I had ever seen it, by at least twice. I can't wait 'til I get an opportunity to use the new 'scope on a night without any haze.

    In March, there will be an event where the new telescope is open to the public. This will be a joint event between the USU Physics Department and the StarHouse Discovery Center. More details on that will be posted as we get closer to March. Meanwhile, check out the article in Wednesday's Herald Journal about the new 'scope.