Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 3/9-3/15

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!  

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SPRING BREAK 2015 SPECIAL HOURS

HMNS Hermann Park (March 8-15):
Monday-Sunday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

HMNS at Sugar Land (March 7-22): 
Monday-Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

George Observatory: 
The George Observatory will be open two extra days for Spring Break – Tuesday, March 10, and Friday, March 13, from 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

World Trekkers – Greece
Friday, March 13
6:30 p.m.
You don’t need a plane ticket to trek the globe; just come to HMNS! Our World Trekkers is a series of cultural festivals for the whole family, featuring crafts, native cuisine and entertainment inspired by Greece!

Super Pi Day 3.14.15
Saturday, March 14
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Visit the HMNS at Sugar Land for Pi Day on this special date – 3.14.15 – during Spring Break! Indulge your inner geek with fun activities for all ages! We’ll even have pi – (with an “e”!) – to munch on, so come see us from 10:00 am to 12:00 p.m. to feed your brain and your belly! It’s a genius idea!

Family Space Day
The George Observatory
Saturday, March 14
Astronauts of all ages—kids and adults—can fly to the Moon with NASA volunteers in the Expedition Center. Great fun for the family! Don’t miss this special opportunity to participate in real astronaut training! Multiple expedition times are available. 

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: The Stars of Spring are Rising

March star report
Mars remains in the west at dusk this month as it moves through Pisces. Mars continues to fade a little each night as Earth continues to leave it farther behind. After this month, Mars begins to be lost in the glare of the Sun.

Venus is in the west at dusk. Venus overtook Mars on February 21; now watch Venus leave behind the much dimmer Mars throughout March.

Jupiter was up all night long in February; now it is high in the east as soon as night falls. Jupiter outshines all stars we ever see at night, so it will be obvious in the east at dusk.

Saturn is in the south at dawn.

Brilliant winter stars shift towards the southwest during March. Dazzling Orion is almost due south at dusk. His three-starred belt is halfway between reddish Betelgeuse and bluish Rigel. Orion’s belt points up to Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. To Orion’s upper left are the twin stars Castor and Pollux, marking the heads of Gemini, the Twins. You can find Sirius, the brightest star we ever see at night, by drawing a line from Orion’s belt towards the horizon. To Orion’s left, about level with Betelgeuse, is Procyon, the Little Dog Star.

From Sirius, look a little bit to the right and then straight down to the horizon. If your southern horizon is clear of clouds and tall earthly obstacles, you’ll see Canopus, the second brightest star ever visible at night. This star is so far south that most Americans never see it and many star maps made in the USA omit it. (You must be south of 37 degrees north—the latitude of the USA’s Four Corners—for Canopus to rise). As you view Canopus, keep in mind that the sky we see depends on our latitude as well as on time of year and time of night.

Joining the winter stars are stars of spring rising in the east. Look for Leo, the Lion at dusk. Later in the evening, extend the Big Dipper’s handle to ‘Arc to Arcturus’ and then ‘speed on to Spica’; these stars rise at about 10:00 in early March but by 9pm on the 31st.

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Moon Phases in March 2015:

Full March 5, 12:05 pm
Last Quarter March 13, 12:48 pm
New March 20, 4:38 am
1st Quarter March 27, 2:43 am

Sunday, March 8, is the second Sunday of the month. Accordingly, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 am on that date. (Officially, the time goes from 1:59 to 3:00 am). Don’t forget to spring forward!

At 5:45 pm on Friday, March 20, the Moon is directly overhead at the equator. This is therefore the vernal equinox. On this date everyone on Earth has the same amount of daylight and the same amount of night. The common statement that day equals night on this date would be true if the Sun were a point in our sky. Since the Sun is a disk about half a degree across in our sky, day is slightly longer than night on the equinox. For us, this is the ‘official’ start of spring; our days will continue to lengthen until the longest days of June usher in summertime. Below the equator, it is autumn, and days will continue to shorten until winter begins in June.

The New Moon of March 20 blocks the Sun, casting its shadow on the Earth. This results in a solar eclipse. Unfortunately, the shadow traces a path in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Scandinavia, making the eclipse inaccessible to us.

Click here for the full Planetarium Schedule

On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory, you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer. If you’re there, listen for my announcement.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 2/16-2/22

GEMS

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!  

Behind-the-Scenes – Samurai: The Way Of The Warrior
Tuesday, February 17
6:00 p.m.
Witness the exquisite objects related to the legendary Samurai warriors of Japan in the special exhibition Samurai: The Way of the Warrior. Museum master docents will lead you through the collection that includes full suits of armor, helmets, swords, sword-hilts, and saddles, as well as exquisite objects intended for more personal use such as lacquered writing boxes, incense trays and foldable chairs. 

Behind-the-Scenes – Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Tuesday, February 17
6:00 p.m.
Featuring 100 awe-inspiring images, from fascinating animal behavior to breathtaking wild landscapes,Wildlife Photographer of the Year harnesses the power of photography to promote the discovery, understanding and responsible enjoyment of the natural world. Tour this visually stunning exhibition with our resident photographers David Temple and Janell Nelson.

GEMS 2015
Saturday, February 21, 2015
9 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
The Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council and the Houston Museum of Natural Science invite you to attend the Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS) event. The Museum will be filled with hands-on science and math for everyone to experience. Local professionals will be at the Museum to answer questions about their careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Thanks to the Society of Petroleum Engineers / Gulf Coast Section for its support of GEMS 2015!

Telescope Classes
George Observatory

Saturday, February 21
Did you get a new telescope? The box made it sound easy to use. Come let an expert astronomer help you set it up and polar align your scope so that it will work. It is not as easy as the box would lead you to believe! After you get some help, then it will be easy and enjoyable. 

Refractor And Reflection Telescope Class
1:00 – 2:30

Go-To Computerized Telescope Class
3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Seeing Stars With James Wooten: Celestial rarity, Canopus appears this month

Star Chart - Feb 15 This star map shows the Houston sky at 9 pm CST on February 1, 8 pm CST on February 14, and dusk on February 28. To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom. Taurus, the Bull, is almost overhead. Dazzling Orion, the Hunter is high in the south, with his two dogs behind him. Sirius, the Big Dog Star, is the brightest star we ever see at night. Look for Canopus on the southern horizon below Sirius. Jupiter, in Cancer, is up almost all night long in early February. In the north, the Big Dipper has re-entered the evening sky. Venus and Mars are less than one degree apart on the 21st.[/caption]

This month, Mars remains in the southwest at dusk this month as it moves through Aquarius. Mars continues to fade a little each night as Earth continues to leave it farther behind.

Venus is low in the southwest at dusk. Watch Venus approach the much dimmer Mars, until they are less than one degree apart on February 21.

Jupiter is up all night long on February 6. That’s when Earth passes between the Sun and Jupiter, an alignment called ‘opposition’. At opposition Jupiter rises at sundown and sets at sunrise. Jupiter outshines all stars we ever see at night, so it will be obvious in the east at dusk and in the west at dawn.

Saturn is in the south southeast at dawn.

In February, the Big Dipper only partly risen at dusk.  Its two pointer stars—the stars farthest from the handle which point at the North Star, may be high enough to see over trees and buildings.

Taurus, the Bull is now high in the south. Look for the Pleiades star cluster above reddish Aldebaran.  Dazzling Orion, the Hunter takes center stage on winter evenings Surrounding Orion are the brilliant stars of winter. Orion’s belt points down to Sirius, the Dog Star, which outshines all other stars we ever see at night. The Little Dog Star, Procyon, rises with Sirius and is level with Orion’s shoulder as they swing towards the south. To the upper left of Orion’s shoulder is Gemini, the Twins.

Under Sirius and low to the southern horizon this month is a star that most Americans never get to see—Canopus. Representing the bottom (keel) of the legendary ship Argo, Canopus is the second brightest star ever visible at night. Thus, it is clearly noticeable along the southern horizon on February and March evenings. However, you must be south of 37 degrees north to see Canopus rise. (This is the line that divides Utah, Colorado, and Kansas from Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.)

The sky we see depends on our latitude as well as on the time of night and time of year. From any given location in our hemisphere, there is an area of the sky around the North Star in which stars never set (circumpolar stars), and an equivalent area around the South Celestial Pole in which stars never rise. The closer you are to the pole, the larger these areas are. The closer you get to the equator, the fewer circumpolar stars there are, but there are also fewer stars that never rise for you. At the equator, no stars are either circumpolar or never visible; all of them rise and set as Earth turns.

That’s why, down here in south Texas, the Big Dipper sets although it’s always up for most Americans. On the other hand, Canopus, too far south to rise for most Americans, rises for us.

Moon Phases in February 2015:
Full                               February 3, 5:10 pm
Last Quarter                  February 11, 9:52 pm
New                              February 18, 5:49 pm
1st Quarter                    February 28, 11:15 am

The New Moon of February 18 is the second New Moon after the winter solstice.  Accordingly, it marks Chinese New Year. The Year of the Horse ends and the Year of the Sheep begins.

Click here for the Burke Baker Planetarium schedule. 

On most clear Saturday nights at the George Observatory you can hear me do live star tours on the observation deck with a green laser pointer.  If you’re there, listen for my announcement.