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Science and Math Education Center and Peterson Planetarium
Fall Semester 2016 Events

September 28, 2016 Peterson Planetarium Open House
September 29, 2016 Rendezvous with a Comet... Mark Brown

October 11, 2016  Science Night at Sacred Heart School
October 27, 2016 Dark Matter, Dark Energy... Dr. Ratra

November 12  Little Jerusalem in Kansas
November 14 Super Moon from the Roof

November/December Director has a new book out!
December 1-2, 2016  Star of Bethlehem


December 1-2, 2016 - Star of Bethlehem

This is a custom educational outreach presentation in Peterson Planetarium. How can we explain a star so bright that it was visible both day and night?  Comet, supernova, and conjunction of planets?! Come to see it to find out -2 shows, 2 nights, to choose from!

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November/December 2016 


The director has a new book out!  It was co-authored with her son,
Jeremy Ward Aber, Assistant Professor at Middle Tennessee State
University ( and a
short bio (
Check it out at Elsevier (
map-librarianship/aber/978-0-08-100021-2) or for
nearby libraries holding the book (

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November 12 - Little Jerusalem in Kansas

Tagging along on a field trip for ES 555 Small-format Aerial Photography, the SMEC director and others conducted Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) at Little Jerusalem. This erosional Niobrara chalk rock outcrop is located in the physiographic province known as the Chalk Buttes in Logan County, Western Kansas (see gold star on map below).

Image modified from map by J.S. & S.W. Aber.

The land was privately owned for five generations and recently purchased by The Nature Conservancy. See Washington Post article October 16 (, The Nature Conservancy YouTube (, University Press of Kansas Blog. (

We took ground and KAP images using the camera lifting platform, a large rokkaku kite and two cameras: Canon S70 auto-kap camera rig and the radio-controlled Nikon GPS camera rig.

For KAP more images see (Nov. 14 entry) and Great Plains Aerial Photography (, an educational outreach website by J. S. and S.W. Aber, ESU professor and the SMEC director, respectively.

A few of my pictures of Little Jerusalem from the ground November 11 and 12, 2016:




Many tracks such as coyote and jack rabbit, but what is this?

         Jack Rabbit nicely camouflaged!

To see public pictures of Little Jerusalem and other areas with similar topography in Logan County, visit the Kansas Geological Survey...
Pictures by Grace Muilenburg include:
Little Jerusalem (;
Little Pyramids, 5 miles SW of Elkader (;
Chalk and Yucca (;
1962 Little Pyramids (;
1960s Chalk Bluffs west of Elkader (;
1969 Pearlette Ash over Niobrara Chalk (

Other pictures in Logan County include:
Barbara Shelton's...
2006 View from the west over Castle City (;
John Charlton...
Little Jerusalem (;
Badlands around Little Jerusalem (;
2009 Little Jerusalem overlooking Smoky Hill River valley (;
Chalk Badlands of Little Jerusalem ( OR remarkably similar to Castle City below...

Hoodoos at Castle City (;
Castle City (;
Castle City Hoodoo (;
Eroded chalk/shale-Castle City (;
Eroded chalk/shale (;

Niobrara Chalk and Shale Banded Badlands (;
Niobrara Chalk Bluffs over Badlands (;
Niobrara Formation Badlands (;
Smoky Hill Chalk capped Niobrara formation (;

Chalk Badlands Canyons (;
Chalk Badlands (;
Chalk Badlands (;
Chalk Badlands (

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November 14 - Super Moon from the Roof!


NASA image taken by Bill Ingalls in Kazakhstan
of the of the Supermoon behind a Soyuz rocket.


On Monday, November 14th, we had telescopes and our
planetarium crew on the roof for viewing stars, Moon,
and constellations!  With a max of 50 visitors at times,
it was great weather and fine night sky for viewing the
Super Moon phenomenon. However, clouds obscured
moon rise and there were too many trees, buildings,
and lights for the best viewing. 

What a Moon... although it was the same Moon as
night before, this was the day the Moon was at perigee
or closest distance to the Earth.  The Moon has not
been this close since 1948 and will not be this close
again until November 25, 2034! The Moon appeared
to be ~14% larger and ~30% brighter than a typical
full moon. Hope you were out on Monday and took i
t all in!! 
NASA has this information on the Supermoon 
novembers-spectacular-supermoon) and how to
photograph celestial objects (

This launch vehicle will be taking NASA astronaut
Peggy Whitson, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet,
and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy to the
International Space Station! Image taken from

Stunning picture by Dr. Kim Simons taken that evening from the roof top!

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October 27 - Peterson Planetarium presents Dark Matter, Dark Energy... Einstein's Cosmological Constant, and the Accelerating Universe by Dr. Bharat Ratra

Dr. Ratra is astroparticle physicist and theoretical cosmologist, as well as currently a distinguished professor at Kansas State University.  He attended the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and earned a PhD at Stanford University, with academic advisors Leonard Susskind and Michael Peskin. He did several pos-doc fellows at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Princeton University, the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At Princeton University, Drs. Ratra and Peebles  proposed the first dynamical dark energy model in which dark energy is the potential mechanism responsible for causing the cosmological expansion to accelerate. 
Dr. Ratra enlightened the audience by discussing the 95% of the Universe we have never seen!! Given the upcoming Halloween, we sponsored a space-themed costume contest.  See highlights of the talk and costumes.


Dark energy is the leading candidate for
the mechanism that is responsible for causing
the cosmological expansion to accelerate.
Dr. Ratra described the astronomical data
which persuaded cosmologists that (as yet
undetected) dark energy and dark matter
are by far the main components of the
energy budget of the universe at the present time.

He reviewed how these observations
have led to the development of a quantitative
"standard" model of cosmology that describes
the evolution of the universe from an early
epoch of inflation to the complex hierarchy of
structure seen today. He discussed basic
physics, and the history of ideas on which
this model is based.                                     


          Great costumes and fun - prizes for all!     

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October 11 - Science Night at Sacred Heart Elementary School

The SMEC educational outreach team went to
Sacred Heart Elementary for Science Night. 
Milk madness, palm pipes, and bubbles -
really big bubbles - were activities the kids
and parents took part in!                
The SMEC Director, Susie Aber
& graduate student, Adegboyega
Jolayemi. Photo by Samantha Myrick.

Bubble solution is water, Dawn dish washing
soap (not ant-bacterial), and glycerin. 
The wire is bent in a circle with a wooden
handle. The wire is wrapped with yarn
evenly spaced.

Water molecules contain both hydrogen
and oxygen atoms, which are attracted
and cling each other. After adding the
soap solution, bubbles form in water
because soap reduces the surface
tension and adds an oily film.  Normal
bubbles are round because they
enclose a volume of air with a minimum
amount of soap solution. Also, the oily
film of bubble solution slows down the
evaporation process and ensures
longer-lasting bubbles!   

Students could blow into the bubble
film or move the large bubble wand to
create round or elongate bubbles with
a prismatic light-dispersion effect.


The Milk Madness demonstration uses milk,
food coloring, and Dawn dish washing
liquid. Whole milk is poured in a bowl;
then drops of food coloring are added.
A Q-tip soaked in dish washing liquid
is touched to each food color drop and
the color quickly disperses as the
surface tension is broken and the soap
attracts fat causing swirls and various
patterns of color!

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September 29 - Peterson Planetarium presents Rendezvous with a Comet by Mark A. Brown

Mark gave a great talk summarizing the end of the Rosetta Mission and more... then on to the main topic - Mark gave a live demonstration of how to make a comet at Emporia State University! 

Yes, comets are dirty snowballs and let us see exactly how to cook a comet...


Hum... a little Pepsi, dirt, Windex, French Roast coffee, glittery metal ingredients and so much more. This was followed by two cups of dry ice and oh what a reaction!

                                         Yes, comets are dirty snowballs               The nascent comet vented as it created a vapor tail... After passing the comets to the audience, the specimens were observed until they returned to the initial ingredients after the dry ice.    

About Mark A. Brown...
Mark has great interest in astronomy, geology, and educational outreach.  He is a geologist, photographer, videographer, planetarium specialist, astronomy instructor, GIS map maker, and military support specialist in the Air Force.  He has been public outreach coordinator, educational outreach coordinator, summer camp instructor, science fair judge, and volunteer astronomer.  Publications include:

Brown, M.A. (2014). Hidden hazards of Sharp Mountain. Pennsylvania Geology, 44(3). Retrieved from

Brown, M.A. (2013). Identifying a piece of the cosmos. Pennsylvania Geology, 43(3). Retrieved from

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September 28, 2016 Planetarium Re-Discovered

The Science and Math Education Center hosted an Open House in Peterson Planetarium!  This event was a family friendly evening of information, science education, and fun in Science Hall. Planetarium shows were simultaneous with tours for the Johnston Geology Museum, and Schmidt Natural History Museum.  Students and faculty from Physical and Biological Sciences as well as Mathematics were in the hallways with demonstrations and activities.

         Bubbles   Bubbles and NSTA

NSTA Chapter students and Dr. Claudia Aguirre-Mendez having fun with bubbles!

   Forensic Science   

Provost Cordle talks to Forensic Science students about fingerprints... and all about rocks and the Tibetan singing bowl with Earth Science students. 


Dr. Ballester shows what happens when you inflate a balloon with liquid Nitrogen.... KABOOM!!

              CONCAVE - CONVEX MIRRORS  

               Mirrors and air pressure... mom

                                    MOMENTUM - Scott Capes

                                        Scott Capes works on gaining momentum!!


Along with learning we had homemade treats and many again re-discovered Peterson Planetarium!  The Night Sky over Emporia was investigated in the clear dark skies with no worries of biting insects. 

Peterson Planetarium was opened for tours and our talented student operators, Courtney Barger and Bryan Longwell, plus our VIPP Mark Brown, presented six consecutive shows.  People sat in comfortable chairs and used their imaginations to see the warm colors of the sunset and feel the cooler air as the sun dropped beneath the horizon.  Our crew clarified that the Sun is not in orbit so it does not go down... but rather Earth turns away from our star, the Sun.  As Earth keeps turning, we see less sunlight and the darkness of space is total... while the stars and planets seem to shine brightly in the recreated Kansas night sky.

A special thanks to ESU students, faculty, and administration as well as our community friends who made this evening open house a success - we could not have done it without YOU!! 

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Come back and see us in 2017!

Latest update 12/10/2016.