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The essential guide to astronomy

Frost Science

FaviconThe Science Behind This Week’s King Tides 14 Oct 2016, 2:22 pm

When you live in places such as Miami and Miami Beach, tides can affect your everyday life. In fact, the higher than normal king tides, which occur several times a year, can be so pronounced that they cause flooding, even on sunny days, affecting commutes and damaging property in low-lying areas. This fall, they are occurring this week, and through the weekend.

Though “king tide” is not a scientific term, it is used by the EPA and NOAA to describe the highest tides of the year. Here in Miami they typically occur in the spring and fall, and occur when the three main tide factors align.

Tides occur when the Earth’s 24-hour rotation around its axis causes us to pass under the moon. The Moon’s gravitational pull changes the shape of the ocean, causing it to stretch out toward the Moon (and away from it on the opposite side of the Earth), resulting in high tides. Low tides are the phases between the stretched areas.

While the Moon is an obvious contributor, the Sun also plays a part. When the Moon and the Sun line up during a New Moon or a Full Moon, the Sun’s gravity kicks in as well, and we get spring tides (not named for the season) about 140% as strong as a regular tide—an effect that is maximized around the equinoxes when the Earth’s equator is also lined up.

The third factor is the Moon’s distance to the Earth as it orbits. The orbit path is elliptical, therefore weaker tides occur when the Moon is farther away (apogee) and stronger tides occur when it is closer (perigee). This week we’ll be experiencing the effects of the sun, moon and perigee alignment, thus kings tide.

As Miami and Miami Beach look to a future that may be affected by sea level rise, many point to king tides as a preview of what’s to come.


The post The Science Behind This Week’s King Tides appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconWaves of Knowledge 11 Oct 2016, 5:05 pm

Waves can teach us a lot about where we are. Pacific islanders once used changes in ocean wave patterns to navigate and predict the location of islands, passing this knowledge from generation to generation. And about a hundred years ago, Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity predicted that gravitational waves carry information about the distribution of matter in the fabric of space and time. On September 14, 2015, gravitational waves were detected for the first time, validating Einstein’s prediction.

Sharing knowledge of waves can in turn create waves of learning that just may be a key to our future. As a science educator, it’s important for me to partake in this process. I recently attended Einstein’s Outrageous Universe, a three-day course organized by the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. The course, introduced by Dr. Michael Turner, famous for coining the term “dark energy,” aimed to share a better understanding of cosmology, to energize conversations with leading-edge researchers and to provide tools and resources that bring the frontiers of physics to planetariums and science centers across the nation.

At the conference, Dr. Daniel Holz talked about the unexpected first detection of gravitational waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), and how those waves are ripples in the curvature of space-time that propagate at the speed of light. They are caused by some of the most catastrophic and energetic processes in the universe, such as colliding black holes.

Dr. Jorge Perez-Gallego (2nd from right) working at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.

Dr. Jorge Perez-Gallego (2nd from right) working at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.

We also met with experts to dive deeper into some fascinating topics: New York Times science writer Dennis Overbye explored the world of Einstein himself; Dr. Andrea Ghez spoke on the black hole at the center of the Milky Way; Dr. Daniel Scolnic explained the death of stars; Dr. Michael Gladders offered insight into gravitational lensing; Dr. Rocky Kolb shared extensive knowledge on the Big Bang; and Dr. Joseph Lykken explained ideas on the future of General Relativity. The icing on the cake was a visit to the Adler Planetarium, the oldest planetarium in the United States.

I had a great time plunging into my previous career as an academic, and was reminded of the rich exchange of ideas there, and how those ideas need to be shared. Planetariums and science centers have a responsibility to make leading-edge research accessible to broader audiences, including the next generation of scientists and engineers, by means of informal science education.

This process of sharing ideas helps us better understand our world. Just think, people once thought the Earth was flat; now we can see much of the cosmos. Each generation builds on the proven ideas of their predecessors—Einstein’s model came to expand upon Newton’s, and explained some observations the latter could not. Some of the predictions of Einstein’s model are being validated now, but it is also becoming obvious that, sooner or later, a new model will expand upon Einstein’s. Who knows, maybe this new model will somehow be the result of a spark in a young mind during an inspirational visit to a planetarium like ours. Keep looking up!

The University of Chicago campus

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FaviconScience Exchange at ASTC 11 Oct 2016, 4:49 pm

Frost Science is more than a museum, it’s also a collection of experts who’ve learned from our 65 years of education heritage. That kind of expertise makes us a valuable part of the Association of Science-Technology Centers’ annual conference, which was held this year at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida on September 24-27. ASTC is a global organization that provides a collective voice to science centers, museums, and related institutions. During the conference, science educators like ourselves get to exchange ideas about what works at our institution, and also learn from others.

This year, we were able to share news about the pending early 2017 opening of the fantastic new Frost Science facility in downtown Miami. It was refreshing to see the excitement and anticipation our project sparked among our peers. Our President, Frank Steslow, led a Frost Science contingent that included Chelle King, Dr. Angela Colbert, Lindsay Bartholomew, Cheryl Juárez, Daniella Orihuela and myself.

Our team guided and participated in sessions about many different topics. I presented in two sessions: one on how to facilitate the creative enhancement and expansion of planetarium content, and a second one on how to factor diversity within and across languages into the bigger picture of community engagement at institutions like ours.

Over 1000 participants from science centers all over the world visited ASTC this year.

Over 1000 participants from science centers all over the world visited ASTC this year.

Among our team, Chelle King talked about citizen science best practices for science centers; Dr. Angela Colbert talked about science centers affecting formal education through community engagement; Lindsay Bartholomew talked about reaching new audiences through community collaborations using NASA resources; and Cheryl Juárez talked about creating inclusive learning experiences for girls in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and increasing the STEM pipeline by means of informal science education. Finally, Daniella Orihuela was lucky enough to attend the conference as a 2016 ASTC Fellow.

The conference was a great experience and success. The lessons learned in the many sessions we attended will prove invaluable as we approach our opening date. A bonus thrill came from wandering through the conference’s exhibit hall, which were filled with the latest exhibitions, products, and services designed with science centers in mind. We cannot wait for next year’s conference, hosted by our colleagues at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California, where we will be able to finally unveil to everyone in our field the wonders of the newly opened Frost Science.

REVISEDThe entrance to the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida

The entrance to the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida

The post Science Exchange at ASTC appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconScience in the Dark at 1 Hotel South Beach 7 Oct 2016, 11:13 am

Every month, 1 Hotel South Beach turns down the lights for a candlelit evening in the lobby of their resort. It’s all part of a Dark Sky event series to raise awareness about the concept of global brightening. Global brightening occurs as urban areas generate light pollution that impedes our ability to see stars at night, and can sometimes affect local wildlife. As urban areas grow, global brightening intensifies.

This month, Frost Science joined the Dark Sky programming with our “Science in the Dark” presentation, which illuminates (pardon the pun) the mysteries behind objects that appear to glow or light-up. The presentation looks at how each state of matter reacts differently to stimuli such as electricity or ultraviolet radiation. Guests and passers by in the hotel lobby were able to explore fluorescent minerals and liquids under a black light and get hands-on with our plasma globe to see how generally invisible noble gases can transform into dynamic colors when charged with electricity. We also demonstrated how invisible gases come to life with the use of a Tesla coil from our spectroscopy kit—a method scientists use to determine what gases stars are made of millions of miles away!  All in all, it was not your average hotel lobby experience.

To learn more about our “Science in the Dark” program, please email our Community Engagement Manager, Daniel Mannina, at dmannina@frostscience.org.  And be sure to visit 1Hotels.com for information on their ongoing slate of unique community events.

See the slide show below for more images from our Dark Sky evening.

Media Galleries

  • Science in the Dark at 1 Hotel South Beach

    Most items simply reflect light, but these minerals absorb it and then radiate colors only seen under a black light!

  • Science in the Dark at 1 Hotel South Beach

    Guests get hands-on with our plasma globe, learning how generally invisible noble gases can transform into dynamic colors when charged with electricity.

  • Science in the Dark at 1 Hotel South Beach

    Solids aren’t the only state of matter that demonstrate fluorescent qualities with ultraviolet light—certain liquids do too! The beaker on the left contains tap water and fluorescein; the beaker on the right holds tonic water with quinine (an antimalarial).

  • Science in the Dark at 1 Hotel South Beach

    Light is refracted through a spectroscopy experiment.

  • Guests get hands-on with our plasma globe, learning how generally invisible noble gases can transform into dynamic colors when charged with electricity.
  • Solids aren’t the only state of matter that demonstrate fluorescent qualities with ultraviolet light—certain liquids do too! The beaker on the left contains tap water and fluorescein; the beaker on the right holds tonic water with quinine (an antimalarial).
  • Light is refracted through a spectroscopy experiment.


The post Science in the Dark at 1 Hotel South Beach appeared first on Frost Science.

FaviconLittering for the Sake of Science 27 Sep 2016, 11:19 am

On Monday, September 12, students from MAST Academy, one of Miami-Dade County’s leading magnet schools, intentionally tossed debris into Biscayne Bay and watched it drift away. But this wasn’t just any debris. The objects the students set adrift were brightly colored wood cards that would float on wind and tidal currents and end up dispersed around Miami. Meanwhile, students and researchers in spots such as the Miami River, Little River, South Beach and downtown Miami simultaneously “littered” as well. The exercise was a collaborative community science project called the Biscayne Bay Drift Card Study, which hopes to help us better understand how wind and ocean currents transport trash, sewage, oil, and harmful algae blooms through South Florida waters.

Each of the drift cards was coded, indicating its deployment locations. Additionally, the drift cards were labeled, explaining the project to whomever finds them, and how to report where it was found. By tracking where the cards were released and found, the study will reveal how the currents distribute debris and other materials in Biscayne Bay, which affects not only the beauty of the shoreline, but also the health of the ecosystem.

Some of the drift cards were painted at the Frost Science Trash Detectives program during Downtown Art Days, which took place on the Miami Science Barge, docked at Museum Park. People were able to write messages and paint pictures about ocean health on the back—when the cards are discovered, students who painted them will be able to check an Instagram hashtag to see where their card eventually ended up.

Some of the drift cards painted by children at the Miami Science Barge during ArtDays

Some of the drift cards painted by children at the Miami Science Barge during ArtDays


The University of Miami’s CARTHE (Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment) designed and oversees the ongoing project, which will last until spring of 2017, and conduct quarterly card releases duing different tides and wind conditions. The study uses three methods of tracking: drifters with GPS trackers, which tend to ride ocean currents; painted bamboo plates that give instant visuals on dispersal; and the painted drift cards, which are susceptible to wind and current.

CARTHE will use the study to create better computer models for predicting the transport of pollutants in Biscayne Bay. This data will provide answers to some basic questions such as “where is the trash coming from that washes up on our beaches?” or “should I be concerned about the waste water that entered the Bay three miles north of my home?” The ultimate goal of the study is to advance our understanding of the area’s flow patterns, and provide students and residents a hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Art) activity demonstrating how the ocean and bay currents transport various substances.

The study got its start when the Frost Science MUVE program, which cleans up areas of Virginia Key, grew concerned over the amount of trash washing ashore. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was having similar problems. Frost Science brought in CARTHE to design the study, which runs from September 2016 to June 2017.

Drift cards might be found anywhere along Miami-Dade County coastline and beyond. If you find one, please report the date, time, and location, along with a photo, via Instagram with #BayDrift or email to BayDriftMiami@gmail.com. From these findings, CARTHE will develop a model to help the Miami community better understand how debris moves, which will help us develop solutions to trash and debris in Biscayne Bay.

The post Littering for the Sake of Science appeared first on Frost Science.

StarDate Online

FaviconAlgol 31 Oct 2016, 1:00 am

Four stars in Perseus represent the Gorgons, the mythological sisters whose heads were covered with snakes. For a couple of hours every three days, the brightest of them, Algol, fades dramatically as one member of the binary system covers the other.

FaviconNew Moon 30 Oct 2016, 1:00 am

The Moon is new today at 12:38 p.m. CDT as it crosses the line between Earth and Sun. Our satellite world is lost in the Sun’s glare, but will return to view as a thin crescent shortly after sunset tomorrow or the next day.

FaviconVenus and Saturn 29 Oct 2016, 1:00 am

Two planets are slipping past each other in the early evening sky. Venus is the “evening star.” The fainter planet Saturn stands to the upper right of Venus this evening, and a bit farther from it on succeeding nights.

FaviconEridanus 28 Oct 2016, 1:00 am

Eridanus, the river, flows into the evening sky this month. This long, winding trail of stars begins to rise around 8 or 9 p.m., but it is so long that its easternmost stars don’t clear the horizon until about midnight.

FaviconMoon and Jupiter 27 Oct 2016, 1:00 am

Jupiter is in great view at dawn tomorrow. The solar system’s largest planet looks like a brilliant star a whisker to the upper right of the crescent Moon. Jupiter is the brightest object in the sky at that hour other than the Moon.

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 87: Planet found around closest Star 24 Aug 2016, 1:00 pm

This is the ESOcast that no viewer will want to miss. We discuss the result of the quest to find a planet around the closest star to the Solar System.

FaviconESOcast 86: From Dr. to Professor -- about the important role of ESO’s community 19 Jul 2016, 4:00 am

ESO is a place where talented engineers, astronomers and many other specialists from all over the world meet and work together. A place where knowledge is shared to provide the astronomical community with the tools to conduct cutting-edge research. One of the ESO scientists who is well known to ESOcast viewers is our regular presenter, Dr J. aka Dr Joe Liske.

FaviconESOcast 85: Chile Chill 7 — "Visitors to the Desert" 21 Jun 2016, 4:00 am

Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the driest places in the world. It’s paradise for the professional astronomers who use ESO’s telescopes. Some of the world’s most powerful instruments for astronomical research are here.

FaviconESOcast 84: The New E-ELT Design Unveiled 25 May 2016, 9:00 am

ESO has awarded the biggest contract in ground-based astronomy — to build the E-ELT dome and telescope structure. So it’s a good time to take a look at what the E-ELT will be.

FaviconESOcast 83: Ultracool Dwarf with Planets 2 May 2016, 11:00 am

Astronomers using telescopes at ESO's observatories in Chile have discovered three planets around a dim dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and the Earth, and they are the best targets so far found in the hunt for life elsewhere in the Universe.

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.

FaviconSpacecraft Power 17 Oct 2016, 3:00 am

There are no gas stations or power outlets in space. That's why NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars--and some other NASA spacecraft that explore the solar system--use something called "radioisotope power."

FaviconWhat's Up - October 2016 1 Oct 2016, 3:00 am

What's Up for October? Moon Phases, Astronomy Day, Saturn and Venus align with a star.

FaviconFour Days at Saturn 15 Sep 2016, 3:00 am

NASA's Cassini spacecraft stared at Saturn for nearly 44 hours on April 25-27, 2016, to obtain this movie showing just over four Saturn days.

FaviconWhat's Up - September 2016 31 Aug 2016, 3:00 am

This month: African eclipse, minor meteor showers, moon near Neptune

FaviconSpitzer Beyond 26 Aug 2016, 3:00 am

This mission was designed to last at least two-and-a-half years; 13 years later, Spitzer has operated far beyond the scope of the original mission.