October 30th, 2014
Looking for the perfect gift for a child in your life (or someone who is a child at heart)? You can’t go wrong with a unique gift from Planet Fun! Check out some of the great toys we’re stocking for this holiday and make your arrangements with Santa a little bit early to make sure you get what you’re after.
Category: Preschool and Early Elementary.
Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine is the perfect way to encourage the scientist and engineer in your daughter, and give her hours of fun, too (but this toy is also great for boys who love science and engineering). Kids play along with the storybook to build a belt drive machine, and they get to know the principles of science and fun characters along the way.
Category: Toddlers and Preschool.
Clifford the Big Red Dog Food Science Kit provides hours of fun for your little scientist-in-the-making. It includes a real lab tray with test tubes, and plenty of science experiments to create fun for days. Best of all, the science experiments are easy, safe, and really tasty: rainbow ice, ice-cream in a bag, homemade butter, exploding marshmallow, dancing pasta, rocky candy, jell-o magnifier, and more!
Category: Early Elementary, Late Elementary, Teen.
Perfect for kids and teens, Slick Tricks has 9 different, and really cool science experiences. Kids engage with science while learning and performing safe tricks like the root beer genie, mysterious water suspension, and the stop and go pendulum, all with a little (okay, a ton!) of help from science.
October 30th, 2014
The Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak about 4:00 p.m. MST on Monday, November 17. Since we can’t see the meteors during the day, observing should be good during the nights of November 16th and 17th. Under dark skies we can expect to see about 15 to 20 Leonid meteors per hour. Many Leonid meteors tend to be bright and leave persistent trails, which makes them fun to watch. I used to stay out all night during this shower and was usually rewarded with at least one bolide (a meteor that provided a burst of light sufficient to show our shadows on the ground). We’ve also watched as trails left by bright meteors glow for up to 10 minutes and get twisted by high-altitude winds.
Unlike last year, the moon won’t obscure our view, so make a night of it! Take a lawn chair, plenty of warm winter clothing, and your favorite beverage; they will go a long way to adding to an already enjoyable experience. Where is the best place to look? Look up. While the meteors will appear to originate from the constellation Leo, they can be seen all over the sky. The best time to observe the shower is after midnight when Utah is facing into the meteor stream.
This meteor shower is famous because approximately every 33 years, Earth collides with a dense portion of the stream and we experience a meteor storm, shooting off thousands of meteors per hour. This last occurred in 1999 and 2001, so we have a long wait for the next period for stormlike activity. Even so, mark November 17, 2034 on your calendar.
Don’t forget to come into Clark Planetarium for the opportunity to hear all about Meteor Showers, like the Leonids, on December 11th and December 13th during our Night Vision presentation series. Tickets are just $2 (free for members). You can also visit the free exhibits on the third floor of the planetarium to learn more about meteorites, and see some real meteor pieces, like the Chelyabinsk meteorites, on display now.
October 29th, 2014
Two of the most famous Autumn constellations are now high in the sky - Pegasus the Flying Horse and Andromeda the Maiden. It’s best to start with “The Great Square of Pegasus” because its bright stars and recognizable shape make for an excellent pointer to many other stars and deep sky objects. Pegasus might sound familiar because of its connection to the famous Greek legend of Andromeda and Perseus (including the cast of Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Cetus).
If you’re facing south, look to the upper left (northeast) star of the Great Square. This is called Alpheratz, which also marks the head of Andromeda. From there, the stars of Andromeda stretch out further toward the northeast as two curving lines that widen into a long horn shape. The second pair of stars from Alpheratz make for a fine pointer to the most distant object visible to the naked eye, the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31). At over 2.5 million light years away, it is the most distant object you can see without a telescope. It shows up easily in binoculars as a fuzzy oval of light with a brighter blob in its center. You are witnessing the collective light of at least 400 billion suns woven together into a spiral-shaped island universe in our Local Group of Galaxies. The darker the skies, the more detail you can see in a small telescope, including the two dark dust lanes in its spiral arms.
Uranus and Neptune are currently in the southern sky below The Great Square of Pegasus. Uranus is in Pisces while Neptune is in Aquarius. Both planets require a telescope but if you know where to look using a star chart, each has its own distinctive color. Uranus is currently at its closest approach to Earth (still over 1.7 billion miles away!) but a small telescope will reveal a small green disk. Neptune is more difficult to see and is best observed in a moderate-sized telescope, displaying a tiny blue dot.
If you’re looking for one of the brighter planets, Jupiter rises late (about 2:00 am) but is nicely placed in the early morning skies before dawn. Look high in the SSE at about 6:00 am for the brightest star-like object in the sky. Even binoculars will show Jupiter’s disk and some of its largest moons!
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