February 1st, 2016

Visions of the Universe

cats-eye-nebula-1098160_1280Galileo Galilei transformed our knowledge of the universe in 1609 when he peered into the cosmos using an telescope—the first person to do so. An exciting exhibit, which opens the week of February 1st at Cecil County Public Library, celebrates the story of how astronomy has evolved over the four hundred years since then.

“Visions of the Universe: Four Centuries of Discovery” uses historical drawings and diagrams made by Galileo and other early astronomers, along with dramatic contemporary images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and other space missions, to show how our views and understanding of the universe and the objects within it have changed over the centuries. The 12-paneled exhibit will be on display at the Perryville Branch, Chesapeake City Branch and Elkton Central Library through March.

Space exploration has fascinated Americans, especially in the 20th century, from Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in 1947 to the space race and Apollo 11’s 1969 moon landing and from the development, then retirement of the Space Shuttle, to NASA’s current call for a new class of astronauts. Movies and books have also encouraged our love of space, whether fact or fiction, from Gravity to Star Wars and from “Neil Armstrong: a Life of Flight” to “The Martian.”

The “Visions of the Universe” exhibit will engage our community in a discussion of what’s really in the night sky, our understanding of it past and present, and the possibilities of future exploration. This exhibit and related programs are an opportunity to remind parents and ignite the imaginations of children and teens about the many career possibilities in STEM industries –right here in Cecil County and throughout Maryland. With the right education and experiences students can embark on career-paths in a wide variety of fields such as: aeronautical (Orbital ATK), defense (Aberdeen Proving Ground, US Naval Academy), Physics (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics lab), medicine (Shock Trauma) and research (University of Maryland) – just to name a few.

CCPL will offer space-themed events for all ages on a variety of topics for children, teens and adults, such as “Astronaut Academy,” “Constellation Hunting” and “Meet an Astronaut.” For more information or to sign-up pick up a brochure at any Cecil County Public Library branch or visit www.cecil.ebranch.info.

“Visions of the Universe” is presented by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland; the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the American Library Association, Chicago, through funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

What’s your favorite space book or movie?

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January 25th, 2016

Hibernation — it’s for the bees!


During this weekend’s blizzard, I set my sights on planning my garden. Browsing inspirational Pinterest boards in addition to garden design books, I got to thinking – where do bees go in winter? Bears hibernate, birds migrate, but what about bees?

I detoured into “bee research” and learned a few things! Some types of bees actually do hibernate. Carpenter bees, both male and female, overwinter in the tunnels they have drilled into wood. With bumble bees, only the queen finds a nest to sleep until the spring, when she restarts her colony. But honey bees are unique in that they stay active all winter, meaning their colonies can survive for years.

When the temperature outside drops below 57 degrees, they do something called a “winter cluster” where the colony groups itself around the queen bee and shake in order to generate heat in the hive. The bees keep their wings still while vibrating their flight muscles, which warms them up. The colder it gets, the tighter the cluster.

Throughout the winter, the bees move around to distribute the warmth. When bees on the outside of the cluster find themselves in need of a reprieve, they push themselves into the middle of the group, giving a new group a turn to work as the insulators. The middle of the hive can get pretty toasty—the temperature can hike up towards 93 degrees!

The honey bee adapts in another way to deal with the weather: their lifespan is extended as well. In the summer, a worker bee’s average lifespan is 4-6 weeks, but in the winter, that time expands to up to 4-6 months, in order for the bees to live through the winter and to keep the queen bee alive.

If reading about the fascinating behavior of bees inspired you to learn more, stop by the library to check out some resources! To expand your knowledge on bees, try the book “A Short History of the Honey Bee: Humans, Flowers, and Bees in the Eternal Chase for Honey.” The documentary “The Vanishing of the Bees” talks about the decrease in honey bee populations across the world. If we’ve inspired you to start your own beehive, the book “Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives” shows you an easy way to keep healthy bees. Cecilton Branch Library will host the Cecil County Master Gardeners for an “Introduction to Beekeeping” on Tuesday, February 2 at 6:30pm.

Will you join us?