Once in a blue moon: Kick off your Labor Day with the last blue moon ’til 2015

Know what makes this Friday special? It’s not that it’s the start to a glorious three-day weekend (although that certainly helps). Rather, Friday marks the last blue moon you can expect to see until 2015.

Once in a blue moonNow, we don’t want to mislead you. “Blue moons” aren’t so-named because the moon turns azure or gives off a blue-y radiant hue. Instead, the term “blue moon” refers to the fourth full moon in a season or the second full moon in a month. We had a full moon Aug. 1, making tonight’s mooning a blue one.

The last blue moon was on New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31, 2009, and the next one isn’t projected to happen until July 31, 2015. So if you buy into all that Mayan apocalypse stuff, this may well be your last chance.

Blue moons occur because our calendar months don’t sync exactly with the orbit of the moon (it takes the moon 29.5 days to move from full to new to full again, and calendar months are usually longer than that because they are based on the solar cycle), although many astronomers contend that the modern definition came about due to an old error in the Maine Farmer’s Almanac. Lucky for us, the error made the blue moon a far more frequent thing to behold.

So whether you’re more interested in a neon moon or the actual moon, we hope you take some time to duck outside tonight and appreciate this astronomical rarity. The moon will be at its fullest at 8:58 p.m. Central Standard Time.

Where do we recommend viewing the moon? From the George Observatory, of course!

Last chance to see Terra Cotta Warriors — EVER! Hurry in before the army moves out Sept. 3

There may have been a Terra Cotta Warriors II, but — mark our words — there will not be a Terra Cotta Warriors III.

HMNS’ second special exhibition of the exquisitely detailed and distinct warriors that guarded the tomb of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuang, extends the story of the Qin, Han and Tang dynasties with 200 ancient works of art, including newly-discovered artifacts unearthed from imperial, royal and elite tombs.

golden dragon

The stunning exhibition — which also featured the premiere of a Terra Cotta Warrior with its original green paint still intact, thanks to new conservation techniques — closes Sept. 3.

What better way to celebrate Labor Day than to examine up-close the extreme care that went into each warrior’s individualized features, the fine ornaments and sacred objects, or the extraordinary works of art?

TCW II: Warriors, Tombs and TemplesHMNS is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Sept. 1 through Sept. 3. Click here for tickets.

Spotlight on Outreach: Embrace the oddballs with the Vertebrates version of HMNS’ Wildlife on Wheels

When you want to see a degu, an African Burrowing frog or an echidna, where do you go? You’re probably thinking the Zoo, or maybe on the National Geographic channel.

So where do you go to touch a degu, an African Burrowing frog or an echidna? Would you believe . . . a natural science museum? Even better, would you believe the museum could bring these fascinating creatures to you?

HMNS Outreach: Wildlife on Wheels

The best way to understand the different vertebrates is to meet them!

HMNS has a plethora of outreach programs that do just that. One of our most popular (and my favorite) outreach programs is Wildlife on Wheels. The Vertebrates theme can bring the aformentioned live fuzzies, squishies and stuffed pokies to schools, scout meetings, church groups, festivals or anywhere a group wants to learn. I love seeing the looks on kids’ faces when we present slick amphibians like salamanders or show them the actual size of an emu’s wing.

One of the best parts is having kids (and the occasionally squeamish adult) touch our live animals. You can see the excitement, trepidation and — hopefully! —understanding on their faces as they interact with something they may have only seen in a movie.

HMNS Outreach: Wildlife on WheelsA frog makes friends.

The Vertebrates theme brings an array of back-boned animals — both stuffed specimens and live creatures — up close and helps people make connections. Because the Vertebrates theme covers all five Vertebrates groups, it’s easy to illustrate the similarities and differences between fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

It is also, I think, our loudest theme — but what can you expect with live birds in tow and tons of inspired kiddos? Even our toads will sometimes get in on the “chorus” if you hold them just right!

HMNS Outreach: Wildlife on WheelsWildlife on Wheels students examine some of our specimens

It seems like a simple enough idea, but we can also adapt the program for different age groups. We love to talk about cool stuff, like what we call “the Rule-Breakers.”  By “rule breakers,” I mean those animals that don’t seem to fit in our carefully constructed categories.

Think about egg-laying mammals like the echidna. What about snakes that have live birth? Consider the endangered sawfish, a family of rays that traverse both fresh and salt water. How about a fish with lungs? There are so many oddities and so little time.

I love our Vertebrates topic. You can simplify the program and use it as an introduction to back-boned animals, make it an energizing refresher, or even make the first scientific connections in a child’s mind.

Ready to learn more about HMNS’ outreach programs or book your own visit from our critters? See it for yourself!

Remembering Neil Armstrong: The first man on the moon dies at 82

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died Saturday at the age of 82.

Neil ArmstrongArmstrong made history on July 20, 1969 as commander of the Apollo 11 mission when he set foot on the moon in front of a captivated American TV audience.

Fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was on the Apollo 11 mission with Armstrong, said, “Whenever I look at the moon it reminds me of the moment over four decades ago when I realized that even though we were farther away from earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone.

Following his death, the American icon’s family called Armstrong “our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend […] a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job.”

“The next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

So give Neil a wink this weekend and check out how he’s being remembered around the world:

 

You can give Armstrong a wink of your own at the George Observatory.