Take a Small Step or Giant Leap Toward Understanding Space on Oct. 20

For centuries humans have looked to the heavens for inspiration—Saturday, Oct. 20, the Physics Department invites you to indulge your cosmic curiosity at the Second Annual Davidson Space Day, an event meant to inspire awe and interest in all things out of this world.

The free, public event was designed to remind people to appreciate the universe, and to have a little fun in the process. Some highlights will include a lecture by a NASA solar system ambassador, a scale model of the solar system, astronomy-themed games and crafts for kids.

"Many dreams, and careers, have begun by looking at the stars and wondering how they were made, why they shine so brightly and what else may be up there," astronomer and event organizer Kristen Thompson said. "I see countless people every day looking down at their phones while they walk, but I very rarely see anyone looking up at the sky as dusk arrives and the stars become visible."

The interactive astronomy fair from 3-6 p.m. on Chambers Lawn will feature activities for people of all ages. Participants will be able to walk a scale model of the Solar System, safely view the sun through solar telescopes, ask questions of and learn from students and professors, and play games. In case of inclement weather, the fair will be held indoors in the Lilly Family Gallery, Chambers Building.

From 7-8 p.m., NASA Solar System Ambassador John O'Neal will deliver a talk, entitled "The Past, Present, and Future of the NASA Parker Solar Probe," in Tyler-Tallman Hall, Sloan Music Center. The talk will be appropriate for all ages.

The night will end with stargazing and guided tours of the sky through telescopes from 8-10 p.m. on Chambers Lawn. Stargazing is contingent upon good weather and clear skies—if the weather is questionable, check the Physics Department Facebook page for updates.

"The Universe puts on a show for us every night, and it is free," Thompson said. "All you have to do is take the time to look up and wonder."

View the full Space Day schedule.

The Final Frontier

Existential Considerations

Are we alone in the universe? The Kepler space observatory was launched by NASA in 2009 to discover Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars. It has identified more than 1,000 "exoplanets" in or near habitable zones, or zones potentially hospitable for life. The James Webb Space Telescope will launch in 2018 and replace Kepler as the premiere observatory in the hunt for worlds beyond our own.

Pale Blue Dot

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering... The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand." -Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Breathtaking Views

The Hubble Space Telescope has been circling Earth for more than 25 years. In that time, it has revolutionized our knowledge of astronomy–from imaging the most stunning phenomena in the cosmos, to the study of the invisible parts of the universe, to observing the most distant objects ever seen. Scientists expect the Hubble to keep operating through 2020, thanks to five servicing missions performed by astronauts.

Global Security

The United States, the Soviet Union and China signed an international agreement in 1967 that prevents any claims of sovereignty upon a portion of outer space and prohibits the placing of nuclear arms in the Earth's orbit, on the moon or on other celestial bodies.

Peaceful Collaboration

Many positive collaborations between nations emerge from space exploration, from the subdivision of costs to the sharing of technological resources that guarantee the safety of astronauts. Despite geopolitical turbulence, the spirit on board the International Space Station remains one of friendship and cooperation.

Great Discoveries

From improved artificial limbs, to memory foam, to thermal space blankets used today by marathon runners at the end of races, to portable vacuum cleaners, space research has led to a plethora of innovations non-astronauts use every day.


Lisa Patterson







  • October 18, 2018