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Monte Sano State Park


VBAS Sponsors


Astronomy Day

Astronomy Day 2017

Theme: Bringing Astronomy to the People

Astronomy Day will be Saturday, October 21, 2017 from 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM in Monte Sano State Park



Astronomy Day at VBASOn Saturday, October 21 from 1-10 pm, the Von Braun Astronomical Society will host its annual Astronomy Day at the VBAS facilities in Monte Sano State Park. Events will include family fun activities hosted by local science groups, planetarium shows and telescope observing (weather permitting). All activities are free and open to the public.

Outdoor hands-on activities from 1-5 pm will be offered by VBAS, as well as local science enthusiasts. In the past we have had representatives from HAL5 (National Space Society Huntsville Chapter), U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and Lonnie Puterbaugh: Astronomy Van.

Short planetarium shows will allow guests to view the night sky indoors, while special solar telescopes outside will offer views of sunspots and solar flares. Visitors may tour both observatory facilities to hear stories about the construction and installation of the telescopes.

Evening activities will kick off at 6:00 pm with a presentation indoors by our keynote speaker, Dr. Alphonse Sterling, whose program is entitled Solar Physics, with a second showing at 7:30 PM.

Tentative outdoor activities include: The Astronomy Channel, a mobile multimedia astronomy exhibit presented by Lonnie Puterbaugh of Nashville, TN, along with the following activities:

  • *Astrophotography
  • *Meteorites
  • *Solar Telescopes
  • *Observatory tours
  • *Pin the Payload on International Space Station, and Make and Launch Your Own Paper Air Rocket presented by HAL5.
  • *Dry Ice comet making
  • *Astronomy Van
  • *Environment of Space (vacuum jar experiments)
  • *Food Truck
  • *Telescope Workshop at 5:30 pm (Bring your telescope!)
  • *And many more


Afternoon Mini-Planetarium Show Schedule:

  • 1:00    The Night Sky - Ms. Gena Crook
  • 2:00    Asteroids - Dr. Naveen Vetcha
  • 3:10    The Night Sky - Ms. Gena Crook
  • 4:15    X-Rays - Dr. Jessica Gaskin


Evening Show

6:00 PM & 7:30 PM Solar Physics - Dr. Alphonse Sterling

The 21 August 2017 total solar eclipse reminded us all that the Sun has a complex outer atmosphere, called the corona. In addition to being beautiful, the corona has been - and to some extent still is - a long standing source of mystery for scientists who study the Sun. Chief among the puzzles is: why is the corona so hot? Even though the photosphere (the "yellow ball" of the Sun) has a temperature of only 6000 degrees C (cool in astronomical terms), the corona is 1-3 million degrees C. Because the cool photosphere is closer to the Sun's center than is the hot corona, the high temperature of the corona goes against intuition that suggests the hotter parts of the Sun should be closer to the Sun's center, where its energy is produced. This talk will cover various aspects of the Sun and its temperature(s), with mention of the role of solar eclipses in understanding the Sun's atmosphere.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Alphonse SterlingDr. Sterling is interested in various aspects of observational and theoretical solar physics. Following his graduate studies, Dr. Sterling spent one year as a postdoctoral researcher at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Subsequently, he has spent over fifteen years years in Japan: the first two years as a postdoctoral associate at Kyoto University, followed by eight years as a contractor for NRL while working at ISAS, outside of Tokyo, as part of the Yohkoh (Solar-A) solar satellite project. Dr. Sterling then completed a two-year National Research Council Senior Associateship with the Solar Physics Group of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Following the NRC Associateship, Dr. Sterling was hired as a NASA Civil Servant and shortly thereafter, he returned to Japan as the NASA liasion for the Hinode (Solar-B) solar satellite project, a mission led by Japan with participation from the US through NASA, and other nations. In addition to research, Dr. Sterling also acts as the NASA Chief Planner for the Hinode solar satellite.

Among Dr. Sterling's research interests are spicules and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), solar atmospheric phenomena that occur on various size and energy scales. Spicules are among the smallest observed dynamic solar features. They appear as jets of relatively cool (chromospheric) material which extend into the hot outer atmosphere (the corona) of the Sun. They reach heights of about 10,000 km, and an individual spicule may carry 1026 ergs of energy. Coronal Mass Ejections, or CMEs, are among the biggest and most energetic solar phenomena. A CME can grow to several times the size of the Sun, and carry 1032 ergs or more of energy. CMEs are of more than just theoretical interest however, since they are capable of damaging satellites and other human systems. Dr. Sterling has researched the properties of spicules and CMEs, and the physical mechanisms for their occurrence and has identified possible signatures of impending CMEs; such signatures may eventually be of practical use in predicting CME onset, and serve as warning signs for CMEs which could damage electronic and satellite systems.



VBAS Astronomy Day 2017 sponsored by:

Astronomy Day 2017 Flyer A-SideAstronomy Day 2017 Flyer B-Side

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