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Flagstaff Festival of Science: September 21-30, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dig Science in the southern Utah desert, the Martian north pole and under the ice in Antarctica. Get ready to uncover a world of mystery and discovery! Join us for the 2007 Flagstaff Festival of Science!

Lead scientist in the excavation of the therizinosaur skeleton and Festival keynote presenter Dr. David Gillette is scheduled to kick off the free 10-day event with Therizinosaur -- Mystery of the Sickle Claw Dinosaur at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 21 in Ardrey Auditorium at Northern Arizona University. When the therizinosaur (thair-uh-zi’-na-sore) skeleton was found in the southern Utah desert, scientists were stumped. The puzzling discovery of this odd, eight-foot-tall gangly dinosaur and how it became lost in an unfriendly sea will set the stage for the 2007 Flagstaff Festival of Science when scientists explore Dino Might.

In addition to several talks by USGS scientists throughout the 10-day festival, there will be talks, open houses, star parties, and tours at Lowell Observatory, Naval Observatory, as NAU Campus Observatory, as well as many other events related to astronomy, space science, engineering, archaeology, weather, ecology, and much, much more!

Just a few of the other USGS and space science related events during the Festival of Science include:

Saturday, Sept. 22
Science in the Park
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Wheeler Park
Perform mock heart surgery, spot an avalanche before it happens, get on board with the Phoenix Mars Mission and uncover the secrets of the Sinagua. This hands-on adventure will have you digging for fossils, understanding conditions in space and exploring sustainable living. From tree roots that dig into the earth to tree rings that dig into the past, people of all ages will Dig Science at Wheeler Park!

Mountain Campus Science and Engineering Day
1 – 4 p.m., NAU Wettaw Building, #88
Attend an exciting chemistry magic show, handle favorite ugly bugs, experience mini Baja and electric cars, see bizarre life forms in plants, view through an electron microscope and solar telescope, make balloon and Alka-Seltzer rockets, have body composition tests performed and operate a seismograph. Don’t miss the tsunamis, earthquakes and aquifers in stereo through the three-dimensional Geo-Wall.

Tuesday, Sept. 25
Phoenix Mars Scout Mission
Carla Bitter, UofA
7 p.m. Museum of Northern Arizona
Launched last month, the Phoenix Mars Scout Mission lander is on its way to the Martian north pole. Find out what signatures of life scientists hope to uncover when a robotic arm digs into the arctic soil!

Wednesday, Sept. 26
Titan’s Methane Monsoon
Dr. Henry Roe, Lowell Observatory
7 p.m. Museum of Northern Arizona
Saturn’s moon, Titan, has been fascinating astronomers with its dry riverbeds, giant ice mountains, drifting methane clouds and liquid methane lakes. Hear from one man who watches Titan almost nightly to gauge the bizarre atmosphere and its impact on this moon’s surface.

Thursday, Sept. 27
Checking in with Mars Rovers
Dr. Ken Herkenhoff, USGS
5 p.m., Lowell Observatory
They have far exceeded their expected lifetimes! Spirit and Opportunity, the hard-working robotic field geologists, keep on going. Hear about their discoveries of ancient water activity on the red planet.

Friday, Sept. 28
Wondrous Worlds
Dr. Paul Geissler, USGS
4 p.m. Lowell Observatory
Just light years away, elements in the universe are putting on a magnificent show! Experience it through the lens of the Hubble telescope.

Sunday, Sept. 30
Meteor Crater Open House
8 a.m. – 5p.m., I-40 east to Exit 233
A hole lotta science goin’ on at this enormous crater! See for yourself with a guided tour along a portion of the rim, or crash meteorites in an interactive display! If you are 12 years old or older, join in a rare opportunity to hike the entire rim. Make your reservation for this special whole-rim hike, 800-289-5898.

For more information and the complete calendar of events, visit the 2007 Flagstaff Festival of Science website.

Google the Heavens!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

hubble orion picture
Screenshot of detailed description of the Hubble Orion Nebula Image in Sky in Google Earth. Image credit: NASA, ESA, Digitized Sky Survey Consortium, and the STScI-Google Partnership.

Exploding stars and faraway galaxies are now just a mouse click away through Sky in Google Earth. The program is modeled after Google Earth, which allows you to tour our planet. With Sky in Google Earth, you can travel across the vastness of the night sky, making tour stops at all the popular Hubble images. Though these celestial objects are far away from Earth, you can reach them in a few seconds with Sky in Google Earth. This new, free, downloadable browser is produced by Google through a partnership with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Google: Sky in Google Earth Information and free download

NASA: Hubble Teams With Google to Bring the Cosmos Down to Earth

STScI Hubble: Hubble Teams With Google to Bring the Cosmos Down to Earth

STScI Hubble: Gallery

Mars Close Encounter?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Earth and Mars are converging, and right now the distance between the two planets is shrinking at a rate of 22,000 mph. Ultimately, this will lead to a close approach in late December 2007 when Mars will outshine every star in the night sky. Contrary to rumor, though, Mars is never going to outshine the Moon.

For more information, see the article NASA: Hurtling Towards Mars

Shuttle Endeavour Comes Home

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Endeavour landing on runway 15 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, August 21, 2007
Endeavour landing on runway 15 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, August 21, 2007. Image credit: NASA/George Shelton
The space shuttle Endeavour and its crew are home after completing a 13-day mission. Endeavour's STS-118 mission successfully added another truss segment, a new gyroscope and external spare parts platform to the International Space Station. Endeavour's Commander Scott Kelly, Pilot Charlie Hobaugh and mission specialists Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Barbara R. Morgan, Alvin Drew and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dave Williams landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday at 12:32 p.m. EDT.

Williams, Mastracchio and station flight engineer Clayton Anderson, with the help of their crewmates, made four spacewalks to accomplish the construction tasks. The spacewalkers also completed work in preparation for upcoming assembly missions, such as relocating an equipment cart and installing support equipment and communication upgrades. During the mission, a new system that enables docked shuttles to draw electrical power from the station to extend visits to the outpost was activated successfully. Because the system worked, two additional days were added to Endeavour's mission.

Although managers addressed several issues with Endeavour's heat shield, including a small gouge in the protective tile on the orbiter's belly, inspections in orbit revealed no critical damage. Endeavour's thermal protection system was declared safe for re-entry on Monday. The orbiter will be processed immediately for its next flight, targeted for February 2008.

NASA: Shuttle Endeavour Crew Returns Home After Successful Mission

NASA: Space Shuttle News Site currently features high resolution images from STS-118 tile damage and landing

NPR: Space Shuttle Endeavour Lands in Florida

Lunar Eclipse, 28 August 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A total eclipse of the Moon will occur during the early morning of Tuesday, August 28, 2007. The event is widely visible from the United States and Canada as well as South America, the Pacific Ocean, western Asia and Australia. In Arizona (GMT-7), the eclipse will begin around 1:51AM, reach totality around 3:37AM, and end around 5:24AM.

NASA: August 2007 Total Lunar Eclipse Information and Schedule

NASA: 2007 Lunar Eclipses