NOW What’s Up With The Solar System?
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
The Southworth Planetarium
70 Falmouth Street Portland, ME 04103
View directions here
Your MIT Club of Maine is pleased to invite you to lunch and an Armchair Astronaut’s tour of our Solar System aboard Maine’s own spaceship “Southworth" (aka USM’s well-equipped Southworth Planetarium). Lunch will be served at 1215 Hours in the enclosed loggia of the Planetarium, and will be catered by USM’s own Aramark service. (Space paraphernalia, astronaut food and scientific curios will also be available for purchase in the adjoining gift shop.)
After lunch, our voyagers will lift off from the adjacent Planetarium dome, which is equipped with reclining acceleration couches, a classic Zeiss Optics star projector, some 50 digital still and video projection units, and a 360-degree full-fidelity sound system. (The passenger deck will be kept at one atmosphere at all times, so pressure suits will not be needed.)
Once we embark on our journey, we’ll first be treated to a brief tour of the skies over Southern Maine as they appear from just above our cluttered troposphere (i.e.without smog, fog, clouds, or sea gulls). This part of the trip will feature unobstructed nighttime views of our local sky - whose splendor may amaze many of us earthbound city-dwellers.
Next we’ll leave Earth altogether and join a grand meet-and greet with all the major players in our stellar neighborhood, beginning with Sol - a Main Sequence G-Type Yellow Dwarf star that just happens to be our Sun - then the eight familiar planets from Mercury to Neptune, and ending with Pluto, which has recently been demoted to “Dwarf Planet” status. (This may change in the near future, since public opinion seems to favor restoring Pluto to full planetary status. Stay tuned…).
Finally as we head back toward Earth, we’ll catch up with NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), which has been delineating the outer edges of the Solar System via its detection and mapping of Neutral Energetic Atoms (NEAs). We’ll learn more about what these mysterious particles really are, and what they’ve been telling us about our collective planetary family (such as the fact that it has a comet-like tail), and the Solar Wind, and why this information may be vitally important to us.
Then, it’ll be back to here and now. The lights will brighten, and we’ll be back on Earth. Outside our spaceship, there’ll be crowds and weather, traffic lights and errands to run. But we’ll surely remember that for 72 luminous minutes, we were Out There…..
We really hope you’ll join us.