Tellus celebrates National Astronomy Day
by Jason Lowrey
Apr 29, 2012 | 1479 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Drake Pitts eyes the sun through the Tellus Science Museum observatory’s telescope Saturday during National Astronomy Day. 
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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The Tellus Science Museum celebrated National Astronomy Day on Saturday with solar telescopes, star walks and meteorites. Children could make bracelets out of UV Beads, whose colors become brighter when exposed to sunlight, and models of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Astronomy Program Manager David Dundee said Astronomy Day was important as it provided families another way to get together while reminding visitors that astronomy is important to everyone, not just scientists.

"It makes people stop in their busy lives and look up," Dundee said about studying the sky. "It's the best free show on the planet. To be able to pause in what you're doing and find an area that doesn't have too many bright lights around it and look at the beauty of the sky."

Even with the sun shining throughout the day visitors were still able to gaze up at the sky. Solar telescopes, which use special ultraviolet filters, allowed visitors to view the sun at high magnification without any eye damage. Smaller telescopes focused on sunspots, small, cooler portions of the sun's surface, while a secondary telescope in Tellus' observatory focused on the sun's edge. Visitors could see planet-sized loops of flame called prominences erupt from the sun's edge and into space.

The Meteorite Association of Georgia was on hand to identify meteorites for visitors and offer the chance to touch a real meteorite. The association was also handing out small meteorite shards to children, allowing them to take a piece of the universe home with them.

Sean Murray, president of the association, said, "It's really neat to see a kid's eyes light up when you give him a rock and tell him what it is or where it came from. It's nothing like they're going to find here."

The meteorite shards came from an unclassified meteorite found in the Sahara Desert. Most meteorites found on Earth come from the Sahara or Northwest Africa, where scientists use magnets to sift through the white sand for the dark lumps of iron.

"They're only a couple of grams a piece," said Murray, as he held up a thin shard of rock," but they're real meteorites -- only 4.5 billion years old."

A star walk was scheduled to end the event, where Dundee would walk the Tellus lawns while discussing stars, planets and constellations with visitors.

This weekend also is the end of an exhibition featuring selected student projects from the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair. The exhibition closes today and displays projects from a number middle and high school students across the state. One measured the safety of chew toys for dogs. Another discovered a way to power microscopic cameras that enter the body and take pictures, which impressed Tellus Curator Julian Gray.

"I don't understand it myself," he said. "These students are brilliant. It's really amazing what they are capable of doing."