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 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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