Star Struck at the Wildlife Experience

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It was a blast spacing out at The Wildlife Experience’s “Winter Sky Campfire” event!   Before his presentation, I interviewed Win Pendleton, PhD.

It was a blast spacing out at The Wildlife Experience’s “Winter Sky Campfire” event!   Before his presentation, I interviewed Win Pendleton, PhD. who is a volunteer and retired Physics and Astronomy Professor.  He’s a super pro on space facts, so I asked him lots of questions!  He uses an 8 inch diameter computerized telescope since it gathers more light on dimmer objects. The size of the opening determines what you can see.  We could see 2,000 stars with our eyes and 1 million with a telescope! The best time of the year to see stars is in the winter since it gets dark earlier and nighttime is longer to view the stars.  If you stayed up all night, you would be able to see 80% of every constellation!  In the winter time, you typically see major winter constellations such as Taurus the Bull, Orion Rising and Gemini and Leo.   You could usually see Jupiter and the 4 moons called Pleiades (a group/cluster of stars in Taurus that look like a teacup) too.  This is the constellation you see every day of your life in the daytime.  The 5 stars on the back of a Subaru represent the five brightest stars.  That’s a car made in Japan and that’s the Japanese word for those 5 bright stars.

Dr. Pendleton’s presentation began indoors with an animated globe presentation called Science on a Sphere.  This is a 6 foot in diameter globe where 4 projectors on the wall project images on this sphere.  The images come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado where the images are collected.  The Wildlife Experience subscribes to this data set which is used on the Science on a Sphere educational tool. 

There are 15 astronomy slides which are presented on Science on a Sphere in depth.  I learned some surprising facts that I wasn’t aware of, such as the sun is white as the snow—not yellow!!  The snow is white because light coming from the sun is white!   Also, there are volcanic eruptions on Jupiter’s ‘Pizza Moon’ and the moon and sun were once planets! 

After traveling through the solar system to learn about our sun and the planets, we headed outdoors to get a real view of the sky at night using a huge telescope.   The campfire and hot cocoa kept us nice and warm as we gathered beneath the immense sky.  Since it was cloudy, Jupiter was not visible so we headed back the next week for a peek through the huge telescope.  The telescope was computerized where the latitude, longitude, time and date are logged in and then you scroll to find your object of interest from a selection of 50,000 objects.   The telescope moves to set up the telescope so that the selected object could be viewed. 
The view of the moon was incredibly clear and fascinating!  It was a perfect view since the sun casted a shadow on clusters of craters.  We were also able to see Jupiter which was bright and glowing, with two bright moons on either side called the Galilean Moons.  Pleiades, an open cluster of stars, appeared as a teacup and looked like the Little Dipper.

This chilly winter night was a great opportunity to view stars in the galaxy!  Thanks to Dr. Pendleton who volunteers his time to teach about astronomy, we were able to see , learn, and have an out of this world experience!