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The essential guide to astronomy

Frost Science

FaviconEverything You Need to Know About the Solar Eclipse 14 Aug 2017, 9:48 am

We’re in for a major celestial treat this month: the U.S. has been given front row seats to a solar eclipse. It’ll be the first time since 1979 that an eclipse has been visible from the contiguous United States. But this one’s special—it’ll be visible from coast-to-coast, something that hasn’t happened in 99 years.

What exactly is a solar eclipse?

While the moon is about 239,000 miles away from Earth with a radius of about 1,000 miles, and the sun is about 93 million miles away with one of about 432,000 miles, they have a similar angular size in the sky. That’s right—they both take up about half a degree on the sky as seen from Earth.

Solar eclipses occur when the new moon comes between the sun and Earth and casts the darkest part of its shadow, the umbra, on our planet. They happen with a certain frequency and are typically seen from different locations around Earth.

Eclipses are named after their darkest phase: total, partial and annular. During a total eclipse, the moon covers the entire disk of the sun. During partial and annular eclipses, the moon blocks only part of the sun. Total eclipses tend to happen when the moon is on its perigee (or, closest to Earth), while annular ones occur when it’s on its apogee (or, furthest from Earth) and looks slightly smaller than the sun. That causes it to form a ring (known as an “annulus” in Latin) as it passes in front of it. On occasion, we’ll get a rare hybrid of an annular and a total eclipse.

Is there a solar eclipse season?

Yes! The moon’s orbital plane around Earth is inclined at an angle of approximately five degrees in relation to the ecliptic—the circular path the sun appears to follow over the course of a year on the celestial sphere. The points where the two orbital planes meet are called lunar nodes. When the sun and the moon are close enough to a lunar node to align with Earth, we are in eclipse season, which lasts for about a month. In every eclipse season, you can expect two to three eclipses, including both solar and lunar. One of these is always a solar eclipse, with about two to five of them occuring every year.

What happens during a solar eclipse?

During a total solar eclipse, we dive into twilight in the middle of the day while witnessing the jets and streamers of light present in the sun’s corona emanating from the edges of the obscured sun. Some stars (and Mercury if it lies just to the side of the Sun) may be visible. Temperatures drop and animals behave as if night has arrived early.

What can I expect during this solar eclipse?

The path of this month’s total eclipse will cross 14 states, from Oregon to South Carolina. While Miami falls just outside of the path of totality, the Magic City will still be able to witness a partial solar eclipse, with an impressive 80% of the sun’s surface shadowed by the Moon. The event will begin at 1:26pm and end at 4:20pm, with maximum covering occurring at 2:58pm.

An eclipse is a spectacular astronomical event but remember, it’s not safe to look at a partial or annular eclipse (or the partial phases of a total solar eclipse) without the proper equipment and technique. Make sure you use eclipse glasses, solar telescopes or binoculars, or welding goggles 15 or higher.

You can also get a pair of your very own eclipse glasses during our Solar Eclipse viewing event! Be sure to check out our calendar for details on this extraordinary event. Complimentary glasses are with museum admission only—while supplies last. Glasses will be handed out starting at 9 a.m. when the museum opens. Solar eclipse glasses are also currently available for purchase at the Science Store for $4.99.

The post Everything You Need to Know About the Solar Eclipse appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconRewind: A Look Back at Frost Science in July 7 Aug 2017, 12:33 pm

July started off with a bang— literally. From our first fireworks-filled Independence Day party to a sold-out live science show with YouTube star Nick Uhas, here’s a rundown of what you might’ve missed last month at Frost Science. (Make sure to take a peek at our calendar for can’t-miss August events!)

Preview of “Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience”

Over 150 members of Frost Science’s Board of Trustees, Giving Circles, Young Patrons and supporters gathered in the Hsiao Family Special Exhibition Gallery for the launch of our newest special exhibition, “Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience.” Along with getting a sneak peek at some of the extraordinary objects and multimedia exhibits that highlight the challenges of space travel (think: Neil Armstrong’s glove from Apollo 11 and water rockets), visitors noshed on tacos and noodles by Frost Science Executive Chef Tony Tehro of SAVOR and ended the evening on a sweet note with liquid nitrogen ice cream from Frost 321. Attendees also got an exclusive viewing of the thrilling “To Space & Back” with James May inside the Frost Planetarium.

Independence Day Celebration
The grills were working overtime as Frost Science played host to a packed house on Fourth of July! Burgers, hot dogs and frosty adult beverages were on hand to cool visitors off as they explored the museum and took a seat in the Frost Planetarium for some retro laser light shows. At 9 p.m., visitors gathered on the fourth and fifth floors to take in the spectacular firework displays all around the city.

LATE@Frost Science: SEEING 001 – Synesthesia
During last month’s LATE@Frost Science, we continued our deep dive into the “SEEING: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?” exhibition. An impressive crowd packed our West Wing for July’s topic: “Synesthesia” as they explored how one can discern colors from sound and “see” what that sound looks like.

The evening featured creative talks inside the Frost Planetarium by Dr. Ninel Z. Gregori, Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and Chief of Ophthalmology Section at Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dr. Berit Brogaard, Professor and Director of the Brogaard Lab for Multisensory Research at the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences, and Rylie VanOrsdol, Synesthete and Artist.

Guests watched synesthete Abel Euler paint music and followed it up with a few memory-making snaps inside the YP Photo Booth. Local musicians Brendan O’Hara and Yoli Mayor lent their powerful and mesmerizing vocals to the evening’s events.

LIVE@Frost Science: Nickipedia Live!
On July 19, we went live with “Nickipedia,” a popular YouTube series dedicated to science, learning and explaining the world around us. The sold-out event featured former “America’s Got Talent” and “Today” show guest Nick Uhas hosting an action-packed 6o-minute show that included making a vapor cloud appear inside of the Baptist Health South Florida Gallery and smashing everyday objects to pieces using only liquid nitrogen. LIVE@Frost Science: Nickipedia Live was presented by Baptist Health South Florida. This program was also made possible by our event partners JetBlue, Miami.com and Cogent Entertainment.

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The post Rewind: A Look Back at Frost Science in July appeared first on Frost Science.

Favicon8 Cool Facts About Our Resident Stingrays 31 Jul 2017, 12:30 pm

Any word prefaced by “sting” can sound a bit, well, intimidating. But stingrays are typically kind and gentle when interacting with people. A great way to learn about these graceful creatures is to visit our Florida Bay Touch Experience in the Aquarium, where you’ll find them gliding through an easy-to-reach pool that allows visitors to get hands-on with various species of this cool cartilaginous fish.
Ready to dive deeper into the mysterious ocean dweller roaming our touch pool waters? Here are eight facts about Frost Science’s friendly rays.

  1. We have 15 stingrays on display in our Bay Touch exhibit, comprised of three different species. You’ll find seven cownose stingrays, four yellow rays and four Atlantic rays.
  2. Our cownose rays were born in another aquarium facility while our yellow stingrays were collected locally by our husbandry staff. The Atlantic rays? They’re actually west coast Floridians.
  3. We feed our stingrays twice a day. In nature, their meals would’ve largely been made up of invertebrates and bivalves. We stick to their diet as close as possible by feeding them a savory mix of clam, shrimp, squid and several types of fish. Dinner party with the rays, anyone?
  4. People take vitamins to give their diet a healthy boost. Our stingrays do, too.
  5. Like all the organisms under our care, we visually check their health and behavior daily to make sure they’re in good shape. If anything’s amiss, our staff veterinarian will step in and provide direct veterinary care. This could include medicines such as antibiotics or even surgical treatments.
  6. Stingrays like their water warm—our exhibit has complex life support systems that help keep the water clean and at an ideal temp of roughly 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Our husbandry staff cleans the exhibit daily, removing waste from the sand and cleaning the acrylic windows. Twice a week, a staff member will swim through the exhibit while cleaning walls and other components—a clean pool makes for a better experience for both you and our rays!
  8. True to their name, stingrays have barbed stingers at the base of their tail that they use for defense. Here at the museum, we employ a commonly-used process called “de-barbing” to trim the sharp tip of the barb. This makes our rays safe for you to interact with and touch. However, the shortened barb will grow back over time—that makes it necessary to repeat the process every couple of months.

Our stingray touch encounter was created to encourage curiosity and exploration around these majestic creatures. Our hope is that it will inspire an interest in conserving the species, and the ocean as a whole.

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FaviconHow Everyday Citizens Are Channeling Their Inner Scientist 19 Jul 2017, 2:38 pm

For thousands of years, the pursuit of science has been relegated to the loftiest professional thinkers and experimenters. Think: Aristotle, Copernicus or Isaac Newton. A PhD or a pedigree of publications is usually what was required to get into the esteemed club of (mostly male) scientists. But who were these scientists before they made their discoveries or published the laws of gravity? They were everyday citizens whose raw curiosity, not qualifications, led them to make these discoveries and question the laws of the universe.  Science in its purest form does not discriminate. It’s a school of thought that invites everyone—no matter their age, race or gender— to contribute to the body of knowledge that advances our planet and our society.

Enter: Citizen Science, a rapidly growing field that welcomes people without a formal science background to participate in the collection and analysis of scientific data. For the past decade, Frost Science’s Museum Volunteers for the Environment program (MUVE) has welcomed thousands of volunteers to participate in habitat restoration efforts that include removing invasive species and planting native vegetation. After MUVE has worked within a habitat, it’s important that the success of these efforts be put to the test. That’s why MUVE launched a citizen science monitoring effort in 2014 . This program asks volunteers to collect data that will help determine whether native flora or fauna are returning to these areas or which abiotic (non-biological) factors, such as marine debris or water quality, are threatening the integrity of newly restored habitats.

MUVE’s citizen scientists participate in biodiversity surveys before any restoration has taken place to establish a baseline in the degraded vegetative community. Then, they monitor changes during and after restoration activities. All biodiversity observations are logged using iNaturalist, a smartphone app that reduces the barrier to entry for untrained citizen scientists. Observations that meet the community standards for quality are then incorporated into the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), a database containing millions of biodiversity observations that have been vetted for accuracy. These observations can then be analyzed by citizen scientists, student researchers or professional scientists.

At the recently completed Virginia Key North Point restoration site, volunteers meet every second Saturday of the month to collect marine debris that is threatening the integrity of a newly planted dune and the active loggerhead sea turtle nesting beach. But Frost Science encourages these volunteers to take it a step further. In addition to picking up rubbish, they also document it using an app called Marine Debris Tracker. Once entered, it is stored in a database maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Documenting the nature and abundance of marine debris allows for the determination of its origin and scale, which makes it possible to create policies that address the culprits of this debris.

Almost a million items have been removed from global waterways and logged on the Marine Debris Tracker since its launch in 2010. Volunteers at Virginia Key contribute to the database by collecting over 2,000 pieces of trash each month!

Frost Science is working on a program that will display these findings within an interactive system called Science Portal, which you can currently find at the Dive level of the Aquarium. Science Portal allows visitors to view and manipulate data fields and images on a massive interactive display made up of five, 55-inch Multitaction screens. The before/after site images and biodiversity data from the citizen science effort complement data from MUVE’s other restoration projects.

Interested in joining our efforts and making an impact on the community? What are you waiting for—become a scientist today! Learn more and click here to join MUVE.

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FaviconThe Curious Vault 010: Aviation Innovation 14 Jul 2017, 11:51 am

Perhaps the defining moment of scouring through the Albert A. Green archive in the Curious Vault was found on the backside of a 8×10 photo depicting a small device that looks like a vintage keychain mixed with a fishing lure. In flowing script, the photo was labeled: “Shark repellant turned out to be a shark ‘attractor.’” The photo represents a risk taken, a scientific experiment and a failure that appeared to be met with a good laugh.

Albert A. Green wasn’t famous, but the eclectic mass of his life’s work and papers still made it to the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science upon his death. Born right after the turn of the century in Connecticut, Green was a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As an engineer, his story is the standard track for Northeasterners who ended up in South Florida in the middle of the century. He didn’t come for the weather; he came for the war effort.

Green spent 14 years working with Sikorsky, an aviation-manufacturing corporation in his hometown state of Connecticut. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp is most famous for inventing and producing the first Army issue helicopter, a project Green was intimately involved with. A framed photo of an early helicopter sits in the archive, signed by Igor Sikorsky the Russian American aviation pioneer, addressed to Green.

In 1942—not long after the United States’ declaration of war on Japan and entry into World War Two—Green moved to Miami to work for the aircraft manufacturer Consolidated Vultee. The archive is an interesting record of a man heavily involved in the aviation war effort. It tells the little known story of Miami’s involvement in the aviation side of strategic operations. In fact, with both the Navy and Air Force operating in such large numbers, many attribute the war as being a major factor in the region’s mid-twentieth century population growth. Around 500,000 Army Air Corps cadets trained on Miami Beach and many of the soldiers returned to make their permanent lives after the war.

Like the cadets, Green stayed in South Florida and appears to have continued working in aviation engineering. There are countless images of flying machines and helicopters that never quite realized, but were certainly attempted. It’s clear from the materials that Green kept a sentimental place in his life’s work for the helicopter.  He bought and donated a helicopter to the local aviation school, which still stands in Miami as the George T. Baker School. In a separate incident, Green and a colleague appear to have crashed a different helicopter somewhere off Miller Road. They were both unhurt, but a 18-inch, dangerous looking, splintered wood and metal shard from the helicopter still remains in the Curious Vault, along with a newspaper clipping from the time describing the accident. Early helicopter experiments were supremely dangerous, as these engineers were charting new ground in flight.
Helicopterschool-1024x818

The other objects in the collection are pins from the various jobs he held, but the bulk of the collection is ephemera. There are countless technical blueprints and drawings of highly specialized airplane parts as well as patents filed, won, and never realized. Vast amounts of letters from important sounding mid-century firms that offer substantial sums while pleading with Green to consider moving to their headquarters. The pictures of him, the ones he saved, show Green smiling amongst friends. There is even a hand drawn birthday card signed by his office created with great care.

One letter in particular stands out.  Dated February 3, 1961, it was sent from the Office of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command. It’s an invitation to come and inspect the facilities and fly with the Air Force SAC. A little bit of digging shows that that same date was the launching point of “Operation Looking Glass,” an airborne command center put in place in case of catastrophic nuclear attack on the US that ran until the late 1990s. Obviously Green was seen as an important figure in the aviation world to have received such an honor, and the letter itself is a fascinating bit of militaria with concrete links to a specific top-secret program.

But perhaps aircraft engineering wasn’t everything to Albert Green. Much like the doomed shark repellant, throughout his notes and papers there are countless mentions of other endeavors. Designs for a novelty cigarette filter, an early model skateboard, an electronic music device, and a solar water heater can all be found carefully delineated amongst the notepads and numerous meticulous blueprints. The skateboard and solar water heater are particularly interesting, as they both date from the 1940s and show that Green was a cutting edge thinker.

Sometime around the early 1960s Green left aeronautical engineering and took up a position as an engineer with the construction firm General Development Corporation. Like all good South Florida stories, an eclectic personality eventually ends up in real estate. Albert Green may not have ended up as famous as Sikorsky, or any other aviation figures from the 20th century, but he was an important cog in the greater machine that represents Miami important place in the war effort. His memory lives on in the Curious Vault at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, a fascinating slice of oft-forgotten history of the city of Miami.

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The Curious Vault is an online cabinet of curiosities featuring objects from the collection of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, presented by writer Nathaniel Sandler and Kevin Arrow, Art & Collections Manager. For more information, email karrow@frostscience.org.

The post The Curious Vault 010: Aviation Innovation appeared first on Frost Science.

StarDate Online - Your guide to the universe

FaviconReady for the Eclipse 20 Aug 2017, 1:00 am

Solar eclipse sequence

Day will briefly turn to night for parts of the United States on August 21 during a total solar eclipse. The Moon will completely cover the Sun's disk, blocking the sunlight but allowing the Sun's pearly outer atmosphere, the corona, to shine through. This multiple-exposure image shows the entire sequence of an eclipse as the Moon slowly encroaches on the Sun's brilliance, covers the Sun (center), then retreats. While the total eclipse is safe to look at with the eye alone, the Sun is still so bright at all other phases of the eclipse that looking at it without proper protection can result in eye damage. [Rick Fienberg/TravelQuest International/Wilderness Travel]

More information about the eclipse:

For millions of skywatchers in the United States tomorrow, day will briefly turn to night as the Moon passes in front of the Sun, eclipsing its light. The Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, will shine silvery-white around the dark Moon. And the stars and planets will shine through the dark as well.

Regulus, the heart of the lion, will perch closest to the Moon. It’s usually lost from view at this time of year as the Sun crosses Leo’s borders. The planet Mercury will shine brightly a little farther away, with reddish Mars on the other side of the Sun.

Brilliant Venus and Jupiter will be farther from the Sun, with Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, low in the southwest.

You may be tempted to shoot pictures and videos throughout the show. But a total solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so most veterans say it’s best to simply drink in the spectacle. And it’s one that involves most of your senses — the air will get cooler, and you’ll hear the sounds of birds and other animals preparing for night.

There are a few safety tips to keep in mind. It’s completely safe to look at the Sun when it’s fully eclipsed, but not at other times; it’s so bright that it can damage your eyes. And highway patrols around the country remind drivers not to stop on busy highways. Instead, find a park or some other safe spot to enjoy the sights and sounds of this amazing lightshow.

We’ll have more about this skywatching spectacle tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield


More information about the eclipse:

 

 

StarDate: 
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Teaser: 
Getting ready for the big event
Solar eclipse sequence
Solar eclipse sequence

FaviconReady for the Eclipse 20 Aug 2017, 1:00 am

The Moon will eclipse the Sun tomorrow, briefly turning day to night across part of the United States. It’s completely safe to look at the Sun when it is fully eclipsed, but not at other times; it’s so bright that it can damage your eyes.

FaviconAnatomy of an Eclipse 20 Aug 2017, 1:00 am

Day will briefly turn to night for parts of the United States on August 21 during a total solar eclipse. The Moon will completely cover the Sun's disk, blocking the sunlight but allowing the Sun's pearly outer atmosphere, the corona, to shine through. This multiple-exposure image shows the entire sequence of an eclipse as the Moon slowly encroaches on the Sun's brilliance, covers the Sun (center), then retreats. While the total eclipse is safe to look at with the eye alone, the Sun is still so bright at all other phases of the eclipse that looking at it without proper protection can result in eye damage. [Rick Fienberg/TravelQuest International/Wilderness Travel]

More information about the eclipse:

Ready for the Eclipse
Solar eclipse sequence

FaviconMore Eclipse 19 Aug 2017, 1:00 am

The Great American Eclipse is coming up on Monday. The Moon will briefly cover the Sun, turning day to night across a narrow slice of the United States. The rest of the country will see a partial eclipse, with the Moon covering only a portion of the Sun’s disk.

FaviconEclipse Predictions 19 Aug 2017, 1:00 am

The Great American Eclipse is coming up on Monday. The Moon will briefly cover the Sun, turning day to night across a narrow slice of the United States.

The timing of the eclipse is known down to the second, and has been for decades. And today, astronomers can predict eclipses far into the future. But making such predictions isn’t easy. It requires a detailed knowledge of the Moon’s orbit around Earth, Earth’s orbit around the Sun, and even the shapes of Earth and the Moon.

Scientists had been trying to predict eclipses for a long time. Just when they first succeeded is a bit unclear, though.

There’s no doubt that people have been predicting lunar eclipses for thousands of years. But lunar eclipses are easier to predict. Earth’s shadow is roughly a hundred times wider than the Moon’s, so you don’t need as high a level of precision to get it right.

There are stories that the Chinese were predicting solar eclipses more than 4,000 years ago, but no confirmation. An eclipse in 585 BC that stopped a war supposedly was predicted by Thales, a Greek scientist. Many modern-day scientists doubt that, however.

The first confirmed prediction was made by Edmond Halley, using the laws of gravity devised by Isaac Newton. Halley forecast that an eclipse would cross England on May 3rd, 1715. And he was right. So the eclipse of 1715 is known as Halley’s Eclipse — honoring the prediction of an astronomical spectacle.

More about eclipses tomorrow.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield

More information about the eclipse:

 

StarDate: 
Saturday, August 19, 2017
Teaser: 
Predicting a skywatching spectacle

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 122 Light: Supermassive Black Holes Feed on Cosmic Jellyfish (4K UHD) 16 Aug 2017, 1:00 pm

Observations of “Jellyfish galaxies” with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed a previously unknown way to fuel supermassive black holes. It seems the mechanism that produces the tentacles of gas and newborn stars that give these galaxies their nickname also makes it possible for the gas to reach the central regions of the galaxies, feeding the black hole that lurks in each of them and causing it to shine brilliantly.

FaviconESOcast 121 Light: Star orbiting supermassive black hole suggests Einstein is right (4K UHD) 9 Aug 2017, 6:00 am

A new analysis of data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope and other telescopes suggests that the orbits of stars around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way show the subtle effects predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

FaviconESOcast 120: Chile Chill 10 – “VLT Main Mirror Recoating” 7 Aug 2017, 6:00 am

This video takes a relaxed look at a tense process — cleaning and recoating the surface of one of the ESO Very Large Telescope’s 8.2-metre main mirrors.

FaviconESOcast 119: AOF First Light 2 Aug 2017, 6:00 am

ESO’s new Adaptive Optics Facility has just opened its eyes to the sky for the first time. Coupled with the revolutionary instrument MUSE, this is one of the most advanced and powerful technological systems ever built for ground-based astronomy.

FaviconESOcast 118 Light: A Tale of Three Stellar Cities (4K UHD) 27 Jul 2017, 6:00 am

Surprise: astronomers have found what look like three different generations of baby stars​ within the Orion Nebula Cluster.

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.

FaviconVoyager at 40: Keep Reaching for the Stars 16 Aug 2017, 3:00 am



In the late summer of 1977, NASA launched the twin Voyager spacecraft. These remote ambassadors still beam messages back to Earth 40 years later, with data from their deep space travels.



FaviconA World Unveiled: Cassini at Titan 11 Aug 2017, 3:00 am



Saturn's giant, hazy moon Titan has been essential to NASA's Cassini mission during its 13 thrilling years of exploration there.



FaviconA Guide to Gale Crater 2 Aug 2017, 3:00 am



The Curiosity rover has taught us a lot about the history of Mars and its potential to support life. Take a tour of its landing site, Gale Crater.



FaviconRover POV: Five Years of Curiosity on Mars 2 Aug 2017, 3:00 am



A rover's-eye view of five years in Gale Crater on Mars.



FaviconCuriosity's First Five Years of Science on Mars 2 Aug 2017, 3:00 am



Five years of Martian discoveries after seven minutes of terror.