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WCSD Team of Students winners

STUDENT ENGINEERING TEAM WINS TOP HONORS AT FIRST ANNUAL NASA HUMAN EXPLORATION ROVER CHALLENGE!

RENO, Nev., April 16, 2014 - A team of students from Washoe County School District's Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology returned home victorious after competing in the first annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, held April 11-12, 2014, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. The Reno students' team and their sophisticated rover vehicle won top honors, finishing first among nearly 100 high school and university teams from around the world.

Supported in part by Nevada NASA Space Grant Consortium (NVSGC), the Reno rover team is a partnership between the school district's Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology (AACT), and Fleischmann Planetarium at the University of Nevada, Reno. University faculty worked with teachers and administrators from AACT to develop the program, which engages students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through hands-on experience, trains teachers and College of Education students in career and technical education, and studies the impact on student attitudes and academic performance.

Advised by their teachers, nearly 40 students from each of the academies at AACT worked on components of the rover in class; and nearly 20 students worked additional extracurricular hours to fabricate the high-tech vehicle, advised by AACT teachers and University faculty. A team of six students was selected through an application process to travel to Huntsville for the 2014 NASA Rover Challenge.

Reno's AACT/UNR team also received the Neil Armstrong Best Design Award for the second year in a row, given for the best technical approach to engineering a vehicle for navigating the extraterrestrial terrain of the course. The award honors the memory of astronaut Armstrong, the first man on the moon during the historic 1969 Apollo 11 mission.

"The students are elated over their rover wins, which reinforce months and years of work on a project that also exposes them to future opportunities in the STEM disciplines," said Dan Ruby, associate director of Fleischmann Planetarium and team advisor. "It's also great our state had two teams in the competition's top 10, with our neighbor team from Virginia City High School coming in ninth."

This year's first annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge is an evolution of NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race, held for 20 years at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The new focus of the program is a shift toward a research-and-development project. The event challenges students to design, build and race light-weight, human-powered rovers to address unique conditions of space exploration. The major technology challenge for this year's NASA event was to design airless wheels that could function on the surfaces of the Moon, Mars and beyond.

"Our AACT/UNR Rover Program was developed to engage students and teachers in STEM through hands-on experience and team design and fabrication of a vehicle to participate in the NASA challenge," said Ruby, who helped develop the program in collaboration with Dana Ryan, director of career and technical education with the Washoe County School District. "This is the fourth year of our Reno program and 36 students from each of AACT's academies worked on the rover in class through an integrated curriculum. Six students were chosen through an application process to travel to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center to compete in Huntsville."

At the NASA event, nearly 100 rover teams from around the world raced on a course strewn with obstacles to simulate lunar terrain. Reno's team completed the competition's difficult half-mile course in three minutes and 37 seconds, including vehicle assembly. The AACT/UNR Rover Team is building on an award-winning four-year history of achievements in the NASA competitions, including a 2011 Rookie Award for fastest time by a new team and placing in the top 10 each year.

The Reno students received a $3,000 award for their first-place win, which will go toward funding their participation in next year's Rover Challenge. The race-winning rover will also be on display at Fleischmann Planetarium on the University campus from June to August 2014, accompanied by an exhibit about the vehicle and the race experience.

"We're excited about the recognition of these high school students' achievements and we hope it's not just an experience of a lifetime, but the first of many future successes in their careers in science, technology, engineering and math," said Ruby.

For more about NASA's Human Exploration Rover Challenge, visit www.nasa.gov/roverchallenge.
For NASA's press release about the Reno team's win, visit www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2014/14-066.html#.U1F2P2j3A19.
For information about the Nevada NASA Space Grant Consortium (NVSGC), visit www.nvspacegrant.org.

For local coverage of the exciting win, visit these news sites:

Reno Gazette-Journal http://www.rgj.com/story/news/education/2014/04/17/reno-school-wins-nasa-rover-exploration-contest/7848095/
This is Reno News http://thisisreno.com/2014/04/student-engineering-team-wins-top-honors-first-annual-nasa-human-exploration-rover-challenge-huntsville-ala-april-12-2014/
KOLO TV: http://www.kolotv.com/home/headlines/Local-High-School-Wins-NASA-Competition-255587131.html
KTVN TV: http://www.ktvn.com/story/25263757/aact-students-bring-home-intl-honors-in-nasa-competition
KTVN TV: http://www.ktvn.com/story/25268801/local-high-school-students-honored-for-winning-international-nasa-competition
KRNV TV: http://www.mynews4.com/mostpopular/story/Local-Students-Compete-In-NASA-International/BOsXT3Q1pk-RXMxCaQ1KhQ.cspx



Watch this SPACE the week of April 21-26, 2014!
FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR DAN RUBY WILL RETURN FROM THE NASA ROVER CHALLENGE!

We'll have more information soon on Dan's exciting participation with Washoe County School District high school students in the new NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge (formerly the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race) held April 10-12 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama! See more about the program on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheAACTRover and at the NASA Rover Challenge site: http://www.nasa.gov/roverchallenge.

(Have a great race, Dan and Rover Team!)



Celebrate Brain Awareness Week (BAW) with us, March 10-14, 2014!

Brain Awareness Week at the University is part of a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. The Integrative Neuroscience Center of Biomedical Research Excellence and the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience are the week's sponsors. Click here for more about all the University's events.

The Planetarium has a fun week of BRAINY events planned and you're invited! All sessions are held in the Planetarium Exhibit Hall and FREE for all!

A Top-to-Bottom View of Your Brain

Monday, March 10, opens at 4:45 p.m., FREE

From a big mushy wrinkly organ to individual neurons, the brain deserves a detailed look, with these activities:
1. An overview on the anatomical regions of the brain
2. Interactive presentation of plastic human brain models
3. Interactive activity molding neurons with clay on paper
4. Spiker box demonstration with a cricket and/or cockroach

NeuroNevada Student Scientists

Tuesday, March 11, opens at 4:45 p.m., FREE

Spend time in our BAW Lab, with brain-based activities, arts and crafts projects and science experiments including visual illusions, memory games, perception tests, brainwave measurements and other fun and creative activities to boost your brain power!

Sleepy Fish and Hungry Flies

Wednesday, March 12, opens at 4:45 p.m., FREE

How do fish sleep? What does a sleeping fish look like? Do flies get hungry? We’ll study sleepy fish and hungry flies to better understand why we sleep and how being hungry affects what we do.

Fruit Flies and Brain Wiring

Thursday, March 13, opens at 4:45 p.m., FREE

How does the brain operate? Are we all wired the same? Is the fruit fly wired the same as us? How we can use the fruit fly to understand how the brain works?

The Sense of Smell

Friday, March 14, opens at 4:45 p.m., FREE

What can worms smell? How does the sense of smell work? Come and see how scientists who use a little transparent worm can tell us about how we smell, and how our brain discriminates among smells.

For more information about our Brain Awareness Week activities, call (775) 784-4812.




Celebrating 50 years! Join us Nov. 9, 2013-Jan. 12, 2014 for special events, retro pricing, and plenty of celebrating about the Planetarium’s 50 years of outreach and education!

$1 per-show admission every weekend!

Nov. 9, 2013-Jan. 12, 2014, Saturdays and Sundays

Our retro $1 per-show weekend prices include our exciting new fulldome feature “Exploding Universe” — the latest in cutting-edge space science and visualization! Click here, to see the full schedule of current planetarium shows, Nov. 9-Jan. 12.

Weekend shows are $1 per show; weekday shows are $7 adults and $5 children ages 3-12, seniors 60 and over, and UNR faculty, staff and students; shows are FREE for Planetarium members.

Friday Vintage Live Star Talks

Nov. 8-Dec. 20, 2013, Fridays, 6-7 p.m.

Join us for a weekly, fulldome look at what’s up in the sky tonight, presented the way we used to back in the day in our Skies Over Nevada series!

Live Star Talks are $7 adults and $5 children ages 3-12, seniors 60 and over, and UNR faculty, staff and students; shows are FREE for Planetarium members.

Friday Travels-Through-Time Talks

Nov. 8-Dec. 20, 2013, Fridays, 7-8 p.m.

Take a weekly look back at every decade since 1963, with our special guest speakers past and present!

Friday Travels-Through-Time Talks are $7 adults and $5 children ages 3-12, seniors 60 and over, and UNR faculty, staff and students; shows are FREE for Planetarium members.

Nov. 8: M. Boone Hellmann ~ architect and son of our visionary architect Raymond Hellmann ~ on the genesis and design of our iconic building

Nov. 15: Kim Berry ~ our neighbor as a young boy and son of Ed Berry, who captured the time-lapse film of our construction ~ on the 1960s, with awesome photos

• Nov. 22: Ron James ~ one of our student employees in the 1970s and recently retired state preservation officer who helped place us on the National Register

Dec. 6: Dan Ruby ~ our director (2002-present) ~ on the 21st century and our vision of the future as a learning lab to connect University students and researchers with K-12 students and the community

Dec. 13: Tony Berendsen ~ expert star guide at Tahoe Star Tours ~ on the 1990s and the Planetarium’s place as a nexus for astronomical activity and community outreach

• Dec. 20: Arthur Johnson ~ our director (1973-2002) and “voice of the Planetarium” ~ on the 1980s, the return of Halley’s Comet and our cool time capsule that accompanied the event

Science Saturdays in the Exhibit Hall

Nov. 9, 2013-Jan. 12, 2014, Saturdays

Check out cool science demos, hands-on activities, and community partners including the Challenger Learning Center of Northern Nevada and the Astronomical Society of Nevada

Science Saturdays and ALL Exhibit Hall events and exhibits are free for all visitors everyday!

More ways to celebrate!

Shop the Planetarium’s Science Store and watch for 50th anniversary specials! Your purchases are tax-exempt and help support Planetarium programs.

Visit the special history exhibit from the University Archives, in the University’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center on campus.

Share your memories and visits with us on Facebook and Twitter!




FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM HOSTS PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES ON MONDAY MORNINGS FOR FALL 2013

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno offers another semester of its popular science-themed Preschool Activities program for Fall 2013, to be held Mondays at 9 a.m., beginning September 30 through December 2, 2013. Children ages 3-5 with accompanying parent or guardian are encouraged to attend. Each session will feature a hands-on craft, story time and fun topic-related surprises. Call (775) 784-4812 for more information or to register. Admission is first come, first served.

Themes for Fall 2013 include:
Sept. 30    Our Solar System: The Planets
Oct. 7        Dinosaurs
Oct. 14      Discovering America
Oct. 21      Nevada Day
Oct. 28      Animals
Nov. 4       Stars and Constellations
Nov. 11     No session; Veterans Day
Nov. 18     Food and Exercise
Nov. 25     Thanksgiving
Dec. 2        Snow, Ice and Winter

Space is limited to 12 children per session and advance registration is advised.

Registration: $5 for each child/parent pair per session. Participants must pay in advance to reserve a spot (sorry, no refunds will be given for missed classes).

The Planetarium is located north of Lawlor Events Center on Virginia and 16th streets, on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Free permit parking is available in the West Stadium Parking Complex, level 3, just east of the Planetarium.

For more information about classes, programs, memberships, exhibits, events, star shows and large-format films offered at Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, call (775) 784-4812.




Planetarium associate director flies with NASA for research on center of galaxy

RENO, Nev., June 25, 2013 – Dan Ruby spends a lot of time, as the University of Nevada, Reno Planetarium’s associate director, looking at and studying space and its many wonders. Tonight, he and teammate Matt Oates, from the Dilworth STEM Academy, will be closer to the stars than ever after they board NASA’s flying observatory SOFIA.

They are among 26 educators from across the United States selected to be Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors, working with research teams aboard SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy).

Photo of Dan Ruby boarding the observatory plane.  

Dan Ruby readies to board the observatory plane in a training session before his flight to the edge of the atmosphere tonight. During the 10-hour trip he will help and observe scientists as they study a black hole in the center of the galaxy using a huge telescope mounted inside the plane. Photo courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno.


”This is an honor, and it’s exciting to see the forefront of space science research,” Ruby said. “We’ll be able to bring a lot back to the kids who come to the Planetarium on field trips, in the classroom and to the community interested in astronomy.”

The pair is flying at the edge of the atmosphere on the airborne observatory, a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner equipped with a 2.5 meter diameter telescope, slightly larger than the Hubble Space Telescope. The observatory enables the analysis of infrared light to study the formation of stars and planets; chemistry of interstellar gases; and supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. Learn more at NASA’s SOFIA website.

As participants in the first cycle of the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program, Ruby and Oates will partner with professional astronomers using SOFIA for scientific observations, and share their knowledge with local students and community members through the 2013 school year and beyond.

They will take two flights this week, one tonight and one Thursday night. The eight- to 10-hour flights are based in southern California. The flights can be tracked in real-time on http://flightaware.com, on the left side of the pagefind “private flights” and enter the SOFIA tail number, NASA747, into the box.

Ruby’s trip can be followed via his tweets (#UNR_SOFIA), his photos and his videos. He will also be posting on the SOFIA AAA Facebook page, Facebook/SOFIA-Stratospheric-Observatory-for-Infrared-Astronomy. His tweets can be found at @UNRplanetarium, his photos on Flickr: fleischmannplanetarium and videos on YouTube: UNRplanetarium.

For more about SOFIA education and public outreach visit http://www.sofia.usra.edu/Edu/edu.html.




(Watch this SPACE the week of June 24-28, 2013!)
FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR DAN RUBY TO TWEET FROM THE STRATOSPHERE!

We'll have more information soon on Dan's exciting adventure and flight with the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) education and public outreach program. See more about the program at SOFIA's website: http://www.sofia.usra.edu/Edu/edu.html .

And follow Dan's Tweets from the stratosphere with hashtag #UNR_SOFIA (via @UNRPlanetarium) from http://www.twitter.com/unrplanetarium and his posts on the SOFIA Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/1308Um7 .

(Have a great flight, Dan!)




FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM HOSTS PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES ON MONDAY MORNINGS FOR SPRING 2013

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno offers another semester of its popular science-themed Preschool Activities program for Spring 2013, to be held Mondays at 9 a.m., beginning February 4 through April 29, 2013. Children ages 3-5 with accompanying parent or guardian are encouraged to attend. Each session will feature a hands-on craft, story time and fun topic-related surprises. Call (775) 784-4812 for more information or to register. Admission is first come, first served.

Themes for Spring 2013 include:
Feb. 4        Senses
Feb. 11      Heart/Valentine’s Day
Feb. 18      No sesssion; Presidents Day
Feb. 25      Sports and Exercise
March 4    Nocturnal Animals
March 11  Amphibians
March 18  Reptiles
March 25  Dinosaurs
April 1       Seasons
April 8       Bugs and Butterflies
April 15     Flowers
April 22     Earth Day
April 29     Butterfly Release

Space is limited to 15 children per session and advance registration is advised.

Registration: $5 for each child/parent pair per session. Participants must pay in advance to reserve a spot (sorry, no refunds will be given for missed classes).

The Planetarium is located north of Lawlor Events Center on Virginia and 16th streets, on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Free permit parking is available in the West Stadium Parking Complex, level 3, just east of the Planetarium.

For more information about classes, programs, memberships, exhibits, events, star shows and large-format films offered at Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, call (775) 784-4812.




FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM HOSTS PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES ON MONDAY MORNINGS FOR FALL 2012

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno offers another semester of its popular science-themed Preschool Activities program for Fall 2012, to be held Mondays at 9 a.m., beginning Oct. 1 through Dec. 10, 2012. Children ages 3-5 with accompanying parent or guardian are encouraged to attend. Each session will feature a hands-on craft, story time and fun topic-related surprises. Call (775) 784-4812 for more information or to register. Admission is first come, first served.

Themes for Fall 2012 include:
Oct. 1  Feelings
Oct. 8  Our Solar System
Oct. 15  Magnets and the Earth’s Poles
Oct. 22  Coral Reefs
Oct. 29  Rainforests
Nov. 5  Food and Exercise
Nov. 19  Baby Animals
Nov. 26  Dinosaurs
Dec. 3  Hands, Feet and Body
Dec. 10  Bugs and Butterflies

Space is limited to 15 children per session and advance registration is advised.

Registration: $5 for each child/parent pair per session or $40 pre-paid for all sessions. Participants must pay in advance to reserve a spot (sorry, no refunds will be given for missed classes).

The Planetarium is located north of Lawlor Events Center on Virginia and 16th streets, on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Free permit parking is available in the West Stadium Parking Complex, level 3, just east of the Planetarium.

For more information about classes, programs, memberships, exhibits, events, star shows and large-format films offered at Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, call (775) 784-4812.




FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM HOSTS PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES ON MONDAY MORNINGS FOR SPRING 2012

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno offers another semester of its popular science-themed Preschool Activities program for Spring 2012, to be held Mondays at 9 a.m., beginning Feb. 13 through April 23, 2012. Children ages 3-5 with accompanying parent or guardian are encouraged to attend. Each session will feature a hands-on craft, story time and fun topic-related surprises. Call (775) 784-4812 for more information or to register. Admission is first come, first served.

Themes for Spring 2012 include:
Series 4: Human Body
    Feb. 13  Heart
    Feb. 27  Senses

Series 5: Seasons
    March 5  Fall
    March 12  Winter
    March 19  Spring
    March 26  Summer

Series 6: Things That Fly
    April 2  Planes
    April 9  Birds
    April 16  Kites
    April 23  Hot Air Balloons

Space is limited to 15 children per session and advance registration is advised.

Registration: $5 for each child/parent pair per session. Participants must pay in advance to reserve a spot (sorry, no refunds will be given for missed classes).

The Planetarium is located north of Lawlor Events Center on Virginia and 16th streets, on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Free permit parking is available in the West Stadium Parking Complex, level 3, just east of the Planetarium.

For more information about classes, programs, memberships, exhibits, events, star shows and large-format films offered at Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, call (775) 784-4812.




O
ur event this evening is respectfully postponed as the University community honors Dr. Glick.

AWARD-WINNING SIERRA ASTRONOMER AND ACCENT STRING QUARTET LEAD “MUSIC AND POETRY OF THE STARRY SKIES” ANNUAL BENEFIT FOR FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM, APRIL 18

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, will host a special evening of poetry reading and musical performance in the Planetarium SkyDome, featuring Sierra star guide and poet, Tony Berendsen, and the Reno string quartet, Accent, during an annual benefit in celebration of Global Astronomy Month. The “Music and Poetry of the Starry Skies” performance will be held Monday, April 18 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Planetarium on the University campus.

The special event is open to the community and proceeds will support Planetarium programs. The evening will debut a new work for string quartet by composer Phil Popham, performed by the chamber music ensemble Accent, in accompaniment to Berendsen’s poems, Elders, Wonders and Cinders. Accent is directed by Eileen Brownell and comprised of leading Reno musicians who have played with such artists as the Moody Blues, ELO and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and with vocalists from the Metropolitan Opera.

The evening will also include an awards presentation honoring several young poets from area schools who recently participated in an Astro-poetry competition. Telescope viewing at the Planetarium after the performance will be provided by Tahoe Star Tours and Celestron Telescopes, weather permitting.

“April is Global Astronomy Month and the Planetarium is celebrating this year with this exciting gala-like event,” said Dan Ruby, Planetarium associate director. “We are pleased that Tony is offering this wonderful evening and we’re so honored to receive such generous support of the Planetarium.”

An award-winning amateur astronomer, poet and president of the Northern Nevada Science Coalition, Tony Berendsen is also past president of the Astronomical Society of Nevada. He has been showing the skies above northern Nevada and California for the past 15 years. He writes astronomy articles and specializes in astronomy outreach by conducting stargazing sessions of the Sierra sky, including regular starry-sky tours at Northstar at Tahoe.

“Music and Poetry of the Starry Skies” will be held Monday, April 18 in the SkyDome at Fleischmann Planetarium on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. General seating begins at 6 p.m.; reserved seating is also available. The poetry reading and chamber music performance starts at 6:30 p.m. (No late seating will be available.) Tickets are $40/general seating or $75/reserved seating and proceeds will support Planetarium programs.

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center is located north of Lawlor Events Center on Virginia and 16th streets, on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Free parking is available in the West Stadium Parking Complex, level 3, just east of the Planetarium.

To purchase tickets in advance, visit the Planetarium or call (775) 784-4812. (Tickets also may be available at the door the evening of the performance, but seating is limited.) For more information, email planetarium@unr.edu.




FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM HOSTS PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES ON MONDAY MORNINGS FOR WINTER 2010-11

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno offers another semester of its popular science-themed Preschool Activities program for Winter 2010-11, to be held Mondays from 9-10 a.m., beginning Nov. 2010 through January 31, 2011.

The Planetarium is located north of Lawlor Events Center on Virginia and 16th streets, on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Free parking is available in the West Stadium Parking Complex, level 3, just east of the Planetarium.

Preschool Winter 2010-11 Activities
Nov. 1, 2010-Jan. 31, 2011; Mondays, 9-10 a.m.
Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus
Children ages 3-5 with accompanying parent or guardian are encouraged to attend the Fleischmann Planetarium's preschool winter activities held Monday mornings, 9-10 a.m., Nov. 1, 2010-Jan. 31, 2011. Each session will feature a hands-on craft, story time and fun topic-related surprises, facilitated by qualified staff from the university's Education program! Call (775) 784-4812 for more information or to register. Admission is first come, first served.

Themes for Winter 2010-11 include:

Series 1: All about Space
    Nov. 1: Our Solar System
    Nov. 8: Comets
    Nov. 15: Stars
    Nov. 22: The Moon

Series 2: All About the Weather
    Nov. 29: Clouds and Wind
    Dec. 6: Rain
    Dec. 13: Rainbows
    Dec. 20: Snowflakes

Series 3: All About Animals
    Jan. 3: Butterflies
    Jan. 10: Fish
    Jan. 24: Reptiles
    Jan. 31: Ladybugs

Space is limited to 20 children per session and advance registration is advised. Registration: $5 for each child/parent pair per session if space is available, or pay for a month in advance to reserve a spot: $20 each child/parent pair for each four-program series.

For more information about classes, programs, memberships, exhibits, events, star shows and large-format films offered at Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center, call (775) 784-4812.




ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM NAMED TO NASA RESEARCH EXPEDITION TO CHILE AS PART OF EARTH-MARS CAVE DETECTION PROGRAM

A research expedition through the desert caves of Chile may give NASA scientists just the information they need to one day survive on Mars.

And while Reno astronomer Dan Ruby mainly looks skyward as part of his work as associate director of Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, this summer he’s been tapped to go underground as one of a 10-member team of astrophysicists, geologists, speleologists and others who will spend a month in Chile’s Atacama desert region, developing techniques for discovering and studying the caves on Mars.

Dan Ruby-NASA team member  

UPDATE: YAHOO! News features discoveries made on NASA’s Chilean cave expedition with planetarium associate director, Dan Ruby.








Fleischmann Planetarium associate director, Dan Ruby will participate in Phase ll of the NASA Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program, set to study the Atacama desert cave region in Chile, July 15-Aug. 15, 2008.


As the driest place on Earth and one similar geologically to Mars, the Atacama region is as close to conditions on Mars as can be found anywhere on our planet. Joining Phase ll of NASA’s Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program from July 15-Aug. 15, Ruby and scientists on the expedition in northern Chile will map and plant sensors in lava tube and salt caves similar to those expected on Mars.

“Martian caves have already been detected through techniques developed by this program, and are significant as a potential habitat for microorganisms and other extremeophiles that might exist or have existed on Mars,” Ruby said. “They may also serve as future habitats for astronaut explorers to the red planet, as they offer protection from radiation and the harsh environment of the surface.”

Funded by NASA-Ames and SETI-CSC and led by Jut Wynne of the USGS-Southwest Biological Science Center in Arizona, Phase ll of the NASA expedition is part of a larger three-year study of caves in the Atacama desert, where thermal imaging of cave entrances has helped refine techniques already proven successful in finding caves on Mars through remote sensing. Wynne and NASA’s Astrobiology/Exobiology Program intend to find whether it is possible to detect caves by studying the amount of heat they radiate. If the team can reliably pinpoint caves on Earth, Wynn believes it should be possible to do the same on Mars.

“Phase ll will use an instrument called a QWISP, quantum well infrared photometer — basically a high-tech thermal camera — intended for use on future Mars obiter, lander and rover missions,” Ruby said. "This project plays a small part to help lay the foundations for the next generation of Mars exploration, both manned and unmanned, which will have immeasurable payoff for humankind."

Fleischmann Planetarium’s involvement in the project stems from associate director Dan Ruby’s participation in Phase l as part of NASA’s Spaceward Bound program, which puts teachers and educators such as Ruby, in the field with planetary scientists to bring back and share current NASA research with their classrooms and the public. In spring 2007 Ruby spent a week in the Mojave Desert, working with a team using a hot-air balloon to photograph volcanic caves. He will serve as a mapping assistant during Phase ll and expects to return to Reno with plenty of new insights.

The 10 team members in Phase ll of the NASA Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program represent the Northern Arizona University; the University of Nevada, Reno; the University of New Mexico; the University of Virginia and other American agencies and organizations; a Chilean geologist from Universidad Católica del Norte is the logistics lead.

“I’m honored to be part of this expedition and excited to do the fieldwork,” Ruby said. “This opportunity provides the public with a connection to cutting-edge space research, and greatly benefits our planetarium programs, which attract more than 57,000 visitors a year, including the 15,000 students who visit on field trips. It contributes another link to the already-strong relationship the University of Nevada, Reno has with NASA projects, and opens the door for similar opportunities in the future for students and other scholars and colleagues.”
 
For more information about the Atacama Cave expedition and the Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program, visit the NASA Astrobiology website at http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ .

Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center is located north of Lawlor Events Center on North Virginia and 16th streets, on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, 1.5 miles north of the downtown Reno arch. Free parking is available in the West Stadium Parking Complex, level 3, just east of the Planetarium.

For more information about the planetarium and its involvement in the NASA program, call (775) 784-4812 or visit http://planetarium.unr.edu.
 
The first planetarium in Nevada, Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno has brought the universe to the community since 1963. Also the first planetarium in the world to project full-dome movies on a 30-foot-diameter dome, Fleischmann Planetarium has educated and entertained generations of school children and adults, inspiring imaginations and expanding horizons.




FLEISCHMANN PLANETARIUM BECOMES PARTNER OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCIENCE-TECHNOLOGY CENTERS (ASTC)

Planetarium members to receive free admission to hundreds of ASTC-partner museums and centers worldwide

The Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno has become a new partner of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), an organization dedicated to furthering public understanding of science among increasingly diverse audiences. ASTC encourages excellence and innovation in informal science learning, in part by serving and linking its members worldwide.

Founded in 1973, ASTC numbers more than 540 members in 40 countries, including science centers and museums, nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, space theaters and natural history and children’s museums.

Members of the Fleischmann Planetarium and any of the ASTC’s partnering organizations also benefit from the ASTC’s Passport Program, which provides free admission to hundreds of partner museums and centers around the world.

“The planetarium’s membership in this important organization means our own members will benefit directly, with free entrance to all sorts of great museums,” said Dan Ruby, associate director of the Fleischmann Planetarium. “We think it’s an awesome opportunity for our members and for other ASTC members visiting us.”

According to Ruby, the Passport Program is just one of many benefits of the partnership.

“In addition to providing our members access to a vast range of resources and member benefits at hundreds of our partner institutions worldwide, this new partnership will help Fleischmann develop exhibits and services to better serve the community,” Ruby said. “Our staff now has access to membership and visitor data and statistics that will help tremendously in our program development.”

Like Fleischmann Planetarium, a large percentage of ASTC institutions are part of a university or affiliated with one, and as such, can offer valuable data for program development to meet the University of Nevada, Reno’s needs.

“This will give us insights into how to develop increasingly effective collaborations with the University and community,” Ruby said. “I can’t tell you how excited we are to be able to offer so many benefits to our members, the University and the community as a result of this new partnership.” For more about the ASTC Passport Program and participating museums and centers worldwide, click here.




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