“National Astronomy Day, of course, is an event to promote people’s awareness of the sky and hopefully to help people become interested in watching the stars,” said David Dundee, astronomy program manager for Tellus. “So generally, we’ll have the observatory open all day. During the daylight hours, we’ll have solar observations in the observatory and as it gets dark, around 9 o’clock, we’ll be observing the planets. Mars and Saturn will be really bright that night.
“... The Atlanta Astronomy Club will be here with their telescopes and we’ll have some other amateurs bringing telescopes. We’ll have some other smaller telescopes out as well. They’ll be around the observatory on the various walkways. Then we’ll have some NASA Ambassadors here for most of the day with some special activities.”
In celebration of National Astronomy Day, Tellus will extend its hours to 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with its observatory being open to the public through 11 p.m. The event also will feature Star Walks at 9 and 9:30 p.m., the premiere of the planetarium show “Back to the Moon for Good” and children’s activities, such as creating UV bracelets, and a make-and-take moon, Earth and sun model.
“It’s a unique opportunity in that not just the observatory will be open but we’re going to have a lot of amateur astronomers with their telescopes,” Santamaria said. “So it’s really an opportunity to get immersed in this whole astronomy experience.
“[The most popular aspect of the event is] looking through a telescope. I never cease to be amazed that you can have a lot of fancy things, a lot of engaging activities, a lot of hands-on stuff but just the idea of the personal experience of looking through the telescope eyepiece — looking at the moon, looking at the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter — it just thrills everybody.”
For Dundee, one of his favorite National Astronomy Day activities is leading patrons on Star Walks, which each span about 20 minutes.
“It’s just me and my laser and the sky,” Dundee said. “So all I need is a clear sky and I just take a bunch of folks out in front of the museum. We walk out and I talk about some of the constellations and I talk about some of the legends and lore of the sky. ... An example would be the Big Dipper is a very popular pattern of stars but in fact it is part of a larger group called Ursa Major, which means the great bear. The handle of the dipper is the tail of the bear and as you know bears have short, stubby tails. But this one in the sky has a long tail.
“It’s actually because some of the early Cherokee stories [say] all bears on the Earth had beautiful, long, graceful tails and they used to use their tails to fish, to get fish out of lakes and rivers and streams. But one winter, it was especially cold and one bear went out for one more snack and dangled his beautiful, long tail in the water and waited and nothing happened. The lake froze over and he tried to get up when he was frustrated not catching any fish and he [noticed] his tail was frozen in the ice. He pulled and he pulled and snap, you guessed it, the tail broke off. From then on, all bears on the Earth had short, stubby tails, but the bears in the sky honor bears of a long time ago and have beautiful, long, graceful tails. So that’s one of the tales of the sky.”
Opened in January 2009, Tellus — an expansion of the former Weinman Mineral Museum — became a Smithsonian affiliate during its debut year. Encompassing 120,000 square feet at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville, the museum is comprised of four main galleries — The Weinman Mineral Gallery, The Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard hands-on science gallery — a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory. The museum welcomed its millionth visitor March 27.
The National Astronomy Day event will be included in regular admission to Tellus for non-members and free for museum members. For more information about the museum and its upcoming events and programs, call 770-606-5700 or visit www.tellusmuseum.org.