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The essential guide to astronomy

Frost Science

Favicon‘Space’ Takes You Beyond Earth, Without Leaving the Museum 20 Jun 2017, 3:55 pm

Fact: Without Earth’s blanket-like atmosphere to moderate them, temperatures on opposite sides of a spacecraft can vary by 500 degrees.

To put it mildly? Life as an astronaut is… complicated.

For humans to survive space travel, they have to overcome many challenging obstacles in the environment and its effect on our bodies. And starting June 24, you’ll have the opportunity to experience and explore these challenges in Space: An Out-of-this-World Experience, a new, hands-on exhibition launching in the Hsiao Family Special Exhibition Gallery here at Frost Science that will run until September 10.

But this isn’t just any exhibit about space travel.

Instead of focusing on its history, the Space exhibit looks to the present—and future—of space exploration. What is it like to travel to, live and work in space? What lies ahead for human space flight? And what does it mean for life on Earth?

With NASA steadfastly working toward its goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s, there’s been serious discussion around whether the Red Planet (and space, itself) can be a safe home for humans. These are crucial conversations to have because it is no longer a question of if humans will reach Mars, but when. And as you’ll see in this new exhibition, space is not a friendly place.

The Space exhibition takes you through six sections that each explore a different facet of space travel. In “Space can kill you,” you’ll experiment with a vacuum chamber to see how common objects behave in a zero-pressure environment. Then, you’ll get a first-hand look at an array of real space travel objects like Neil Armstrong’s glove, an Apollo helmet and metal shields impacted by simulated meteorites.

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As you make your way through “Traveling to and in space,” you’ll learn about Newton’s third law of motion and the high cost of getting to space as you launch a water rocket, turn on an ion engine and study stunning photos of Earth taken from orbiting spacecraft. In the next area, “Weightlessness,” you’ll explore gravity through a 14-foot drop tower and by playing “air hockey” on the orbit air tables. Ever imagine yourself weightless? A series of float mirrors will show you exactly what that might look like.

Before changing your zip code to something a bit more celestial, “Living in space” is a good primer to life beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Here, you’ll experience what life is like on a space station and how people eat, sleep and yes, even use the restroom in orbit. A space station dollhouse and a full-size mockup commode help illustrate these concepts.

In “Working in space,” you’ll try your hand at some of the tools astronauts use as they work in space, including a de-pressurized glove box and a robotic arm. And finally, you’ll end your journey in “Our future in space,” where you can make your home on Mars through a massive magnet wall, test the weight of peanut butter as it orbits out of Earth and share your opinions on space travel with other guests in a visitor feedback station.

Oh, and you’ll want to get your camera ready—a “See Yourself on Mars” photo-op puts you and a friend in the Red Planet’s harsh, rocky environment.

Developed in partnership with the International Space Station Office of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the California Science Center and the partner museums of the Science Museum Exhibit Collaborative, the Space exhibition is ready to show you what is possible when it comes to space travel and what awaits in orbit… and beyond.

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FaviconHurricane Season Is Here and Frost Science Is Ready. Are You? 13 Jun 2017, 11:48 am

You’ve rolled out your grill, cleaned the pool and stocked up for all the requisite summer party supplies—but for South Floridians, gearing up for summer also means preparing for hurricane season.

June 1 marked the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season and when we began to turn a watchful eye on the tropics. But at Frost Science, preparations for the season begin long before that. With our new building comes new challenges—as well as new benefits—regarding hurricane preparedness.

We start our preparations by looking at the Emergency Action Plan found within our Safety Management System. That’s where we have a hurricane plan that lays out what the museum’s actions will be before, during and after a hurricane. Part of our year-round vigilance is the maintenance of the hurricane protection equipment. This equipment can be as mundane as flashlights and hand tools, or as elaborate as the emergency power and communication systems. While the season may be short (it runs until November 30) our active approach to hurricane preparedness is a 365-day endeavor.

Our physical hurricane preparations begin with constant monitoring of the tropics. When a hurricane watch is declared, the president of the museum decides on a date and time that the museum will be closed to guests, and when all museum preparations must be completed to ensure enough time for employees to look after their own homes. Some of the key physical preparations that occur are the protection of critical systems and technologies, such as the covering or removal, to a safer location, of any computers or high value assets we need to protect from flooding or water damage. Our building was also designed and constructed to take storm surge into account, which helps minimize the risk to the building and its exhibitions. In fact, the Plaza level sits 21 feet 8 inches above sea level—that exceeds Miami-Dade County’s requirement by over 50 percent!

But one of the greatest challenges we face in our hurricane preparations is securing our animals prior to the hurricane arriving. We have backup generators as well as systems in place that allow us to ensure the animals will be safe from harm even during a major hurricane. Once the building is secured and locked down, only select personnel may enter after the storm has passed. These people will inspect the building to ensure it is safe for the staff to return and begin the cleanup effort. Once the cleanup is underway, the president’s office will select the date and time we will re-open.

These actions and more are covered within our Safety Management System, Emergency Action Plan and our Continuity of Operations Plan. These documents, along with training and drills, allow us to continue to educate and entertain our guests after a major event such as a hurricane.

How can you prepare at home?

A great way to start the season is to create (or restock) an emergency supply kit. For extra fun, turn it into a game! After gathering all your supplies, see who among your friends and family can build the highest supply kit tower. Take a picture of it and share on social media to challenge other friends and family to make their own kits too!

Not sure what goes in an emergency supply kit? Here are some suggestions:

https://www.ready.gov/kit

https://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340160_Hurricane.pdf

Want to brush up on your hurricane trivia?  Here are few facts to take with you into the season:

  • Miami-Dade County has not had a hurricane since 2005.
  • Starting this year, the National Hurricane Center will issue watches and warnings for storm surge in addition to Tropical Storm and Hurricane watches and warnings.
  • The seasonal forecast predicts above-normal hurricane activity, which means that more named storms than the historical average are predicted to occur.
  • A storm is named once it reaches tropical storm strength (sustained wind speeds of 39 mph or more).

 

 

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FaviconSchool: Out. Summer Camp at Frost Science: In! 2 Jun 2017, 1:04 pm

When school’s almost out, the heat’s on and afternoon thunderstorms roll in like clockwork, it can only mean one thing: summer is almost here. And with classrooms winding up their lesson plans for the year, parents are left asking a very crucial question: “what are we going to do with the kids?”

The answer? Summer Camp at Frost Science! We’re hosting two camps this year—an eight-week session for 2nd-5th graders starting June 19 at our Museum Park campus and a four-week long Outdoor Explorers program beginning July 10 which takes 6th-8th graders on an adventure through different ecological sites in Miami-Dade County.

Summer learning loss—or “brain drain”—isn’t a new concept. Teachers and researchers have long pointed to a noticeable setback when children return to class from a long summer break, with STEM subjects often being amongst the most impacted.

The good news is that enrichment programs and life experiences like the ones offered at Frost Science can combat this loss and even increase children’s skill levels before the head back to school.

Our summer camp caps classroom size at 25 students, and all classes are staffed by CPR and first aid certified instructors and scientists. Throughout the eight weeks, kids will embark on four week-long camps (the cycle is repeated to make up the full eight weeks) that bring STEM subjects to life in an interactive and thrilling way.

Does your child like to build and invent things? Do they have a knack for asking questions and making observations? Your engineer-in-training will get a kick out of Crazy Contraptions, a week of planning, drawing, designing, building and testing creations ranging from water structures and towers to intricate laser beams.

In Shark, Shores and More, kids dive into the world of marine science while getting up close and personal with the creatures we share our beaches with. They’ll discover how different habitats are connected while exploring our three-level Aquarium and dissecting a squid!

Future aviators will soar to new heights during Flying High, a camp segment that really brings our Feathers to the Stars exhibition to life. The takeaway here? Innovation in flight was only possible through trial and error. Kids will get the chance to test that idea while designing paper airplanes and modifying them to complete obstacle courses—they’ll even get the chance to add small motors to their prototypes and really watch them take-off! At the end of the week, they’ll follow a drone out on Museum Park and examine how it works to record its surroundings.

Our All About You week investigates the most interesting species on the planet: humans. Here, kids will explore the human body and mind through a series of experiments and activities that include making “brain freezes” (don’t worry, it’s just ice cream!), practicing yoga and martial arts with certified instructors, and learning how keeping a journal can help make the mind-body connection.

If snorkeling and kayaking around Miami’s waterways sounds like a magical summer experience, our Outdoor Explorers camp for the middle school set delivers. Most of this four-week camp is held offsite as campers observe, analyze and collect data from different ecological locations around town in their role as citizen scientists.

Two daily snacks and a camp t-shirt are included with registration, along with an option to purchase a daily pre-made lunch. Before and after care are also available to campers.

There are only a limited number of spots available for our Summer Camp and seats are filling fast! For more information or to register for the June 19 camp session, click here. Registration for the Outdoor Explorers program will be open mid-June.

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FaviconFrost Science Rings the Nasdaq Bell 25 May 2017, 4:31 pm

From beneath the stunning vista provided by the Gulf Steam Aquarium’s 31-foot oculus, Frost Science rang the Nasdaq Stock Market Opening Bell remotely from Downtown’s Museum Park. Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost along with President Frank Steslow rang the bell at on May 22 at exactly 9:30 a.m., with the Board of Trustees and members of locally-owned Nasdaq companies looking on. Our hammerhead shark couldn’t resist getting in on the action, too—she made a brief appearance on camera from behind the glass.

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FaviconGuest Post: How FPL Is Bringing the Power of the Sun Closer to You 24 May 2017, 6:00 am

Have you ever seen a solar array—or, a group of solar modules or panels—up close and wondered how it generates solar energy? It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often because most solar panels are located out of our line of sight—usually on rooftops or at large, remotely located universal solar energy centers.

But here at Frost Science, you get a front row seat to the science of solar energy. Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) has two innovative solar installations at the museum that make it easy for you to examine the power of the sun—one on the FPL Solar Terrace, and the other on our plaza.

On the rooftop terrace there are 240 photovoltaic solar panels silently generating 66 kilowatts of zero-emissions energy—enough to power 66 South Florida classrooms. On the Plaza level, FPL has installed two unique solar trees that generate zero-emissions energy when the sun is shining, just like the millions of solar panels located at FPL solar energy centers throughout the Sunshine State. These solar trees are part of the FPL SolarNow program, which supports the development of community-based solar projects.

FPL built Florida’s first-ever solar energy center in DeSoto County in 2009. At the time, it was the largest of its kind in the nation. Since then, solar has come a long way!  The solar energy centers FPL is building today are three times as large and cost even less to construct.

By early 2018, FPL plans to have eight new universal solar energy centers cost-effectively generating zero-emissions energy for customers.  More than 2.5 million photovoltaic (PV) solar panels will generate enough energy to power approximately 120,000 homes annually.

The new solar centers will prevent more than 500,000 tons of carbon emissions annually – equivalent to taking more than 100,000 cars off the road each year.

You can dive deeper into the basics of solar energy while at the museum by downloading the new Frost Science app. Just fire it up, and go on an energy scavenger hunt or take a ‘Behind the Build’ tour.

Learn more about FPL’s commitment to solar energy by visiting www.fpl.com/solar.

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StarDate Online - Your guide to the universe

FaviconGalactic Nurseries 29 Jun 2017, 2:36 am

Three vast stellar nurseries stretch across the galaxy in this new image from the Very Large Telescope in Chile. From left, they are the Omega Nebula (Messier 17), the Eagle Nebula (Messier 16, made famous as the "pillars of creation" by a Hubble Space Telescope image), and Sharpless 2-54. All three are roughly 7,000 light-years away, stretching from the constellations Serpens to Sagittarius. They are part of a much larger complex of gas and dust that is giving birth to many new stars. [European Southern Observatory]

VLT image of three galactic nebulae: M17, M16, and Sharpless 2-54

FaviconFuture Fireworks 29 Jun 2017, 1:00 am

Cygnus, the swan, soars across the east at nightfall. One of its stars may explode around 2022. The system’s two stars are spiraling closer together. They should merge, causing an outburst that will make the system one of the brightest in the night sky.

FaviconFuture Fireworks 29 Jun 2017, 1:00 am

With the Fourth of July coming up, we predict that you’ll soon be seeing fireworks in the night sky. And some astronomers in Michigan are predicting fireworks in the sky as well. They expect a star in Cygnus, the swan, to explode in about five years. If they’re right, the blast will be as bright as the North Star.

KIC 9832227 was first studied in detail by Kepler, a planet-hunting space telescope. Its observations showed that the system’s brightness was changing. Larry Molnar and Daniel van Noord of Calvin College were intrigued by the star, so they kept an eye on it for a while.

Van Noord concluded that the system is a contact binary — two stars that actually touch other. And their contact is getting more intimate — their cores are getting closer together.

By comparing the system to a contact binary that exploded a few years ago, Molnar predicts that the stars will merge in 2022, give or take a year. The merger will trigger an explosion. For a few weeks, the system will shine 10,000 times brighter than it does today.

Right now, the astronomers are watching the system with radio and infrared telescopes on the ground, and an X-ray telescope in space. These observations should confirm whether we’ll see some fireworks from the swan in the years ahead.

And Cygnus flies across the eastern sky on these early summer evenings. KIC 9832227 is near the middle of its top wing. But you need a telescope to see it — for now.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield

StarDate: 
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Teaser: 
Getting ready for some fireworks

FaviconSagittarius Rising 28 Jun 2017, 1:00 am

Sagittarius climbs low across the southern sky on summer nights. Its brightest stars form the shape of a teapot, which clears the southeastern horizon a couple of hours after sunset. The center of the Milky Way galaxy is above the teapot’s spout.

FaviconRed Nova 28 Jun 2017, 1:00 am

Two stars that recently merged into one threw up a thick veil of dust around themselves.

V1309 Scorpii first came to light in September of 2008, when a nova flared up in the beautiful constellation Scorpius, which is visible in the southern sky tonight. A nova is an exploding star, and most novae turn blue. But the nova in Scorpius was unusual, because it turned red instead.

By good luck, astronomers had been keeping an eye on this part of the sky. During the years leading up to the explosion, they’d made more than a thousand observations of the star. These observations revealed the star’s remarkable nature: it was really two stars that were stuck together, forming a contact binary. If Earth circled a contact binary, we’d see not a glowing sphere in the daytime sky, but a glowing peanut.

The pre-nova observations also indicated that the two stars were spiraling closer and closer together. They then merged into one, sparking the blast. At its peak brightness, it rivaled the most luminous stars in the entire galaxy.

Recent observations of V1309 Scorpii reveal that a thick blanket of dust formed shortly after the nova erupted. The single star born in the merger spun quickly, so it flung gas from its surface out into space. The gas cooled and turned red, accounting for the nova’s color. As the gas cooled, grains of dust also formed, blocking much of the light — almost as if the now-single star was seeking to block the view of outsiders like us.

 

Script by Ken Croswell, Copyright 2017

StarDate: 
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Teaser: 
An exploding star turns red

ESOcast HD

ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO, the European Southern Observatory. Here we explore the Universe's ultimate frontier with our host Doctor J, a.k.a. Dr. Joe Liske.

FaviconESOcast 113 Light: Live search for Planets around Proxima Centauri continues (4K UHD) 19 Jun 2017, 6:00 am

In 2016 the Pale Red Dot team discovered a planet around Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Sun. Using ESO’s exoplanet hunter, HARPS, they are about to continue the hunt for the nearest exoplanets. See more in this episode of ESOcast Light.

FaviconESOcast 112: Catching Starlight 16 Jun 2017, 5:00 am

Capturing and recording the light from the heavens has always been an essential aspect of astronomy. In this episode, we’re going to delve into the history of the sensors that have been used to study the Universe over the centuries.

FaviconESOcast 111 Light: VST captures glowing celestial triplet 14 Jun 2017, 6:00 am

FaviconESOcast 110 Light: Ingredient for life found around infant stars (4K UHD) 8 Jun 2017, 6:00 am

ALMA has observed stars like the Sun at a very early stage in their formation and found traces of methyl isocyanate — a chemical building block of life.

FaviconESOcast 109 Light: Full steam ahead with ELT primary mirror (4K UHD) 30 May 2017, 10:00 am

HD - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

High-definition (HD) videos from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory feature the latest news on space and science findings from JPL and NASA. Topics include discoveries made by spacecraft studying planets in our solar system, including Mars, Saturn and our home planet, Earth. Missions also study stars and galaxies in our universe.

FaviconNASA at Mars: 20 years of 24/7 exploration 22 Jun 2017, 3:00 am



No one under 20 has experienced a day without NASA at Mars.



FaviconArt of Astrophysics 8 Jun 2017, 3:00 am



How do you visualize distant worlds that you can't see? A team of artists uses scientific data to imagine exoplanets and other astrophysical phenomena.



FaviconThree Years of NEOWISE Asteroid Data 5 Jun 2017, 3:00 am



This animation shows asteroids and comets observed in infrared by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission.



FaviconWhat's Up - June 2017 1 Jun 2017, 3:00 am



Plan a planet party at midnight and compare features on Jupiter and Saturn.



FaviconNew Radar Images of Asteroid 2014 JO25 9 May 2017, 3:00 am



This movie of asteroid 2014 JO25 was generated using radar data collected by NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California on April 19, 2017.