Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yuri's Night

Today was the 50th anniversary of the first person in space, Yuri Gagarin. It was also the 30th anniversary of the first Space Shuttle and the 10th anniversary of the first Yuri's Night. I wasn't at any of those, but I had been in Graz, Austria in 2000, when the UN Space Generation Advisory Council was formed, and Loretta Hidalgo (now Whitesides) had the idea for Yuri's Night. For the last ten years, I've tried to get something going in whatever town I was in for Yuri's Night. But I don't like huge parties, such as New York, Moscow, DC, and LA have, and really don't have the contacts to put on such a party. But this year I finally organized a Yuri's Night Cache Valley. It was not a huge party. In fact, it was only 6 of us at my in-laws house, and mostly we just rehashed a lot of what had been talked about at our last board meeting (although there were a few other topics of conversation). We had chips & dip & lemonade to snack on, and we finally got to meet the college student who has been working with David on grant proposals for a class this semester.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Break

This week is Spring Break for both Utah school districts here in Cache Valley. I don't know about Idaho, but I haven't had any response from the Idaho schools at all this year. So no substitute teaching and no presentations.

The last two weeks, however, have been pretty busy. I've been to River Heights and Wellsville Elementary Schools for a whole days worth of presentations each, and North Park Elementary had their science fair. I did a very informal tour of the solar system for the science fair presentation, as people were coming in and out at different times. And then the biggie: My first middle school presentations using Stellarium was last Tuesday at Spring Creek Middle School in Providence. I spent the entire day giving 6th grade presentations. A student teacher at Spring Creek was actually the one who contacted me, so the presentations were all on constellations for her classes and her cooperating teacher's. Her advisor from Utah State University showed up, so I had a chance to talk to him.

The 6th grade constellation presentation is specifically designed to answer some questions for the kids that appear on the state exam. One of the questions shows a diagram of the Sun at noon, with the line art of a constellation behind it, another constellation at the eastern horizion, and a third on the western horizon. The kids are asked to identify which of the three constellations the Sun will be in when it sets. The correct answer is the same one as it is in at noon, but from working at the Clark Planetarium, I learned that this is not an easy question for 12-year-olds to understand. The other questions I try to answer have to do with the coordinate systems used in astronomy, and the relationship between star brightness and star distances. If anyone has a 6th grader, or knows a 6th grade teacher, please let them know about our programs, and direct them to our outreach website, Jr Science & Astronomy (http://starhousediscovery.org/jrsciastro.html)