Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 1/11-1/17

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!

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Richard.

block party 6

Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our brand-new Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty.

Lecture – Visualizing Guadalupe: From Black Madonna to Queen of the Americas by Jeanette Peterson
Tuesday, Jan. 12
6:30 p.m.
The Virgin of Guadalupe is famously migratory, traversing continents and crossing and recrossing oceans. The Virgin’s earliest cult originated in medieval Europe, where the Black Madonna of Spain played a significant role in the Reconquista and garnered royal backing. The Spanish Guadalupe accompanied the conquistadors as part of the spiritual arsenal used to Christianize the Americas, where new images of the Virgin acted as catalysts to implant her devotion within multiethnic constituencies. Dr. Jeanette Peterson will trace the symbolic and racial implications of the shift from the Spanish black Madonna to the brown-skinned Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Americas.

Lecture – The U-2 Incident: Facts and Fictions by Francis Gary Powers, Jr.
Wednesday, Jan. 13
6:30 p.m.
U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and Soviet spy Rudolph Abel walked across the “Bridge of Spies” to their respective freedom on May 1, 1960 in Potsdam. Abel was welcomed home as a hero to the Soviet Union. But Powers returned home labeled a traitor in the media. Using FOIA requests, declassified files and his father’s memoirs, Francis Gary Powers, Jr., the Cold War pilot’s son, will reveal the full story of what actually happened in this most sensational espionage case in Cold War history. The truth allowed his father to justly emerge as a Cold War hero, eventually decorated with a Silver Star posthumously.

This insider account of the Cold War spy exchange is now the subject of the major motion picture Bridge of Spies by Steven Spielberg starring Tom Hanks. Francis Gary Powers, Jr. is founder and chairman emeritus of The Cold War Museum in Vint Hill, Virginia 40 miles from Washington, DC. Books Strangers on a Bridge by James Donovan and Operation Overflight Francis Gary Powers will be available following the lecture.

Class – Get a New Telescope?
George Observatory 
Saturday, Jan.16
1:00 p.m.
Did you get a new Refracting or Reflecting telescope for Christmas? (non-electronic or computerized telescopes) Come let an expert astronomer teach you how to set it up your scope so that it will work. It’s not as easy as the box would lead you to believe! After you have helpit will be easy to use. The astronomer will help you set up and learn some stars so that you will be successful. Bring all the parts and the instructions that came with the new telescope. If you want to stay later, you can allow the public to come look through your new scope and see how much fun it is to volunteer at the George Observatory.

Class – Get a New Go-To & Computerized Telescope?
George Observatory 
Saturday, Jan. 16
3:00 p.m.
Did you get a new Go-To & Computerized telescope for Christmas? Come let an expert astronomer teach you how to set it up and polar align your scope so that it will work. It’s not as easy as the box would lead you to believe! After you have help…it will be easy to use. The astronomer will help you set up and learn stars to line up with so that you will be successful. Bring all the parts and the instructions that came with the new telescope. If you want to stay later, you can allow the public to come look through your new scope and see how much fun it is to volunteer at the George Observatory.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 1/4-1/10

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!

VOG_600

Behind the Scenes Tour – La Virgen de Guadalupe
Tuesday, Jan. 5
6:00 p.m.
Going back to the 8th century in a struggle between Muslim and Spanish naval forces and on to the appearance in the Aztec capital in the 15th century, Virgin of Guadalupe was adopted as a symbol in Europe and the New World during times of friction. Through the artwork and artifacts on display, your guide will trace the increasing role the Virgin of Guadalupe played in society.

Behind the Scenes Tour – Spies, Traitors, Saboteurs
Tuesday, Jan. 5
6:00 p.m.
Enemies within U.S. borders have been a threat since the birth of our nation. On this tour of “Spies, Traitors, Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America” you will learn of various acts of terrorism throughout US history and the government and public responded, as well as, examines the challenge of securing the nation without compromising the civil liberties upon which it was founded.

Family Space Day
Saturday, Jan. 9
George Observatory 
Blast into outer space on a simulated space flight to the Moon! The Expedition Learning Center at the George Observatory will be open for individual children and adults to sign up for missions. No danger is involved! Astronauts are assigned jobs aboard the Space Station Observer and work together as they solve problems and have fun. Volunteers who work at NASA will run the missions and visit with the participants. Don’t miss this special opportunity to participate in real astronaut training!

 

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 10/26-11/1

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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Lecture – Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble
Monday, Oct. 26
2:30 p.m.
Marilyn Johnson’s will offer an entertaining look at the lives of contemporary archaeologists as they sweat under the sun for clues to the puzzle of our past. Johnson digs and drinks alongside archaeologists, chases them through the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and even Machu Picchu, and excavates their lives. Her subjects share stories we rarely read in history books, about slaves and Ice Age hunters, ordinary soldiers of the American Revolution, children of the first century, Chinese woman warriors, sunken fleets, mummies. What drives these archaeologists is not the money (meager) or the jobs (scarce) or the working conditions (dangerous), but their passion for the stories that would otherwise be buried and lost. Book signing of Lives in Ruins following lecture

Lecture – Amazonian Plant Biodiversity By Nancy Greig
Tuesday, Oct. 27
6:30 p.m.
The Amazonian basin has one of the highest diversities of plants in the world. Dr. Nancy Greig, director of the HMNS Cockrell Butterfly Center, will discuss some of the reasons for this great biodiversity with vibrant images of particularly interesting Amazonian species, including a number of plants involved in ant-plant symbioses. Following the lecture, the audience is invited to tour the Butterfly Center and Insect Zoo to view some living examples of plants and insects from the neotropical region.

Tricks, Treats & T.rex
HMNS at Sugar Land
Celebrate Halloween at HMNS Sugar Land and discover the scary side of science! Our annual Halloween Spooktacular returns for two days! Costumes encouraged both days.
Museum of Unnatural Science Haunted House – Friday, Oct. 30,  7 – 9 p.m.
Magical Pumpkin Maze – Saturday, Oct. 31, 10 a.m. – noon

Family Space Day
George Observatory
Saturday, Oct. 31
Make the George Observatory your pre-Halloween destination! Bring your trick-or-treaters to the George Observatory before the night’s festivities begin as we celebrate Family Space Day on Saturday, October 31. It wouldn’t be Halloween without costumes, so wear your scariest get-up as you sign up for our simulated spooky space flights.

Spirits & Skeletons
Saturday, Oct. 31
8:00 p.m. to Midnight
Calling all ghosts and ghouls, monsters and mummies, witches and werewolves: Houston’s favorite Halloween party — the one and only Spirits & Skeletons — is back at HMNS! With the entire museum open you can shake your stuff with a stegosaurus, grab a drink with a skink and get spellbound by bewitching gems, all to live music and your favorite hits played by DJs with fantastic food trucks parked right outside. Whether you go with scary and spooky or fab and kooky — dress up, party the night away at HMNS and we’ll put a spell on you!

Seeing Stars with James Wooten: Planets near alignment, Astronomy Day arrives, and the clock ‘falls back’ this October

October Seeing Stars

Saturn is now in the southwestern sky at dusk. It outshines the stars around it, so it’s also easy to see. By Halloween night, however, Saturn sets in twilight; it drops into the Sun’s glare next month. 

Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will come close together in the sky late this month. Right now, the three planets are almost in a vertical line, with Venus, Jupiter on the bottom, and Mars in between. Venus is brighter than Jupiter and both outshine all stars we ever see at night, so they’re easy to find even in twilight. Mars is much, much dimmer than those two. It is now just below (and slightly dimmer than) the star Regulus in Leo.  During this month, watch as Mars gains on Jupiter and Venus gains on them both. Mars overtakes Jupiter Oct. 17, when they are just 0.38 degrees apart. By way of comparison, your pinky held at arm’s length blocks about one degree. Venus then passes one degree from Jupiter Oct. 26. That morning, the three planets form the most compact alignment, fitting within a circle 3.35 degrees across. Venus goes on to overtake Mars the morning of Nov. 3. They are 0.68 degrees apart that morning.

The Big Dipper is left of the North Star, with its handle pointing up. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’ in the west at dusk. 

Autumn represents sort of an ‘intermission’ in the sky, with bright summer stars setting at dusk, while bright winter patterns such as Orion have not yet risen. The ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius sets in the southwest early in the evening. The Summer Triangle is high in the west. Meanwhile, the Great Square of Pegasus is in the east, indicating that autumn has begun. The stars rising in the east are much dimmer than those overhead and in the southwest because when you face east at dusk in October, you face out of the Milky Way plane. The center of our galaxy lies between Scorpius and Sagittarius, while the Summer Triangle is also in the galactic plane. Pegasus, on the other hand, is outside the plane of our galaxy and is a good place to look for other galaxies. Nearby constellations Andromeda and Triangulum (a small triangle) contain the spiral galaxies nearest to our own.

Moon Phases

Moon Phases in October 2015:

Last Quarter: Oct. 4, 4:06 p.m.

New: Oct. 12, 7:06 p.m.

1st Quarter: Oct. 20, 3:31 p.m.

Full: Oct. 27, 7:05 p.m.

Our annual Astronomy Day at the George Observatory is Saturday, Oct. 24! On Astronomy Day, we have activities from 3 to 10 p.m., and all of the telescopes, even the ones that normally cost $5 to look through, are free. It’s the biggest astronomy event in southeast Texas! Click here for more information.

Halloween is on Saturday this year, which means that the next day, Nov. 1, is the first Sunday of November. Therefore, Daylight Saving Time ends and we ‘fall back’ to standard time at 2 a.m. that morning. (The time goes from 1:59 a.m. back to 1 a.m., giving us the 1 a.m. hour twice.) So get your #ChillsAtHMNS, don’t forget to set your clocks back, and enjoy your extra hour of sleep Halloween night!

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. 

Clear Skies!