January 11th, 2016

Solar Physics

sun2 Join us on Tuesday, January 19 for this month’s NMTC Science Café on Solar Physics. Graduating Towson University Honor student, Kielan Wilcomb, who has served as an intern at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory for two years, will explain what it means.

Solar physics, a branch of astrophysics, is the study of our Sun. This is important because the Earth would not have a livable habitat if it weren’t for the Sun. The food we eat exists because of sunlight falling on green plants, and the fuel we burn comes either from such plants, or was accumulated by them. We enjoy the warmth of the Sun that reaches us within 8 minutes. There are direct health benefits of limited sun exposure such as Vitamin D production, helping your circadian rhythm, lowering blood pressure, and improving your mood.

The importance of predicting space weather, solar flares and other solar phenomena is critical. Our climate is directly affected by solar winds. Disturbances in the solar wind can shake the Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts. Regions on the surface of the Sun often flare and give off ultraviolet light and x-rays that heat up the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Excess radiation can physically damage satellites and pose a threat to astronauts. Shaking the Earth’s magnetic field can also cause current surges in power lines that destroy equipment and knock out power over large areas.

Did you know that the Northern Lights are caused by great storms on the sun sending gusts of charged solar particles hurtling through space? If Earth is in the path of the particle stream, our planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere react. When the charged particles from the sun strike atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, they excite those atoms, causing them to light up.
Ms. Wilcomb, National Science Foundation S-STEM Scholar and Vice President of Towson’s Student Physics Society, will help us understand these phenomena. Please come and enjoy a relaxed evening of discussion with others interested in the physics of our Sun.

What questions do you have about the sun?

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January 5th, 2016

Gateway to Freedom

UndergroundRRI enjoy learning about American history and have recently been reading about the Underground railroad, going beyond traditional Harriet Tubman tales.

In “Gateway to Freedom,” Pulitzer-Prize winning scholar, Eric Foner delves into American slavery and freedom, focusing on New York City, where slavery continued even after it was abolished. New York also had the largest free black community, where slave-catchers trolled, often selling free children into slavery in the south. Abolitionists and free blacks formed the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835 and by the 1840s was a thriving network which became known as the underground railroad.
Using the formerly secret records of Sydney Howard Gay, Foner develops an inspiring chronicle, introducing characters formerly unknown to the history books. This 2015 book is also available for immediate download via Hoopla, which provides free movies, music, television, and audiobooks.
Looking for more Underground Railroad stories? Check out the DVD “Underground Railroad: the William Still Story,” a compelling tale of William Still, one of the most unheralded individuals of the Underground Railroad. There’s also a book of journals published by William Still called “The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts.”
If you’re interested in local history about the Underground Railroad, visit the Chesapeake City Branch, Monday, January 11 at 6:30 PM when Historian Milt Diggins explores the Underground Railroad through the Baltimore-Wilmington-Philadelphia corridor and how the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal played an important part of this history. Or he will present Regional Tales of the Underground Railroad at the Perryville Branch, Wednesday, February 17 at 7 PM.
What do you know about the Underground Railroad?

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