Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dramatic Impact on the Sciences and Space Travel

By Michael L. Sampson

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

There is an interesting story told about how actress Nichelle Nichols, famous for playing Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura, was influenced by Dr. King. Nichols had begun her career in show business singing with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands. She believed the Broadway stage was her true calling until an unforgettable encounter with King convinced the talented actress to remain on the popular sci-fi show.

Nichelle Nichols as “Lieutenant Uhura” in the original Star Trek television show. fuzzyundertones.com

After informing Gene Roddenberry of her intentions, she directed her steps towards Broadway. Roddenberry was the brilliant creator and producer of the Star Trek series. Before leaving, however, she had a historic moment during a chance conversation with the noted civil rights leader. During the 1960s, there were no other Black females on television in non-stereotypical roles. Lieutenant Uhura, as the communications officer for the Starship Enterprise, became a role-model for African Americans. In addition, her unique Star Trek portrayal was an inspiration for women and other minorities.

King, an avowed Trekkie himself, explained to Nichols that she could not give up her positive presence on the award-winning television show. He exclaimed, “You can’t, you’re a part of history!” To Dr. King, her presence was influential, inspiring a generation of young people to shoot for the stars.

Thanks in large measure to her trailblazing television role, Nichelle Nichols gave hope to many that careers in space exploration and the sciences were dreams that were achievable. She became a successful recruiter for both NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the AMA (Analytical Mechanics Associates).

The first woman in space, astronaut Sally Ride, and the first African American woman in space, astronaut Mae Jemison, were both recruited by Nichols. She also recruited Charles Bolden, the current NASA administrator.

Other African American space pioneers include Dr. Guion “Guy” Bluford the first African American in space; Joan Higgenbotham, who has flown on the Space Shuttle Discovery for over 12 days in space; Dr. Ronald McNair, who was tragically killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and Stephanie Wilson, a flight engineer logging over 42 days in space where she operated her ship’s robotic arm.

Dr. King’s vision was a gentle nudge that continues to pay dividends for all of humanity. As we educate and utilize the skills and abilities of all, we confidently blast-off to a place “where no man has gone before.”

View the interview when Nichols recalls her conversation with Gene Roddenberry and the encounter with Dr. King.

Travel The World Without Leaving the MidWest!

DMNH_1958_Roberts Pump Building location at 251 E. Second Street, 1941-1958

The Dayton Museum of Natural History, 1958

While we’re only pretty sure that time travel isn’t an actual “thing” yet, the next best option for aspiring explorers may just be to visit a Museum!  From ancient artifacts and rare oddities to countless extinct specimens of animals that no longer roam the world, you can find a wide variety of history from across the globe at your local Natural History Museum.  Many Daytonians remember the Boonshoft Museum as the Dayton Museum of Natural History, when its cornerstone was its vast Collection of artifacts and specimens.  What many may not know is that our Collections remain a crucial aspect of the Boonshoft Museum today, as many of these items can be found in current exhibits, while the rest are maintained for future use and research.

With 1.7 million artifacts and specimens, there is something for all ages and interests to explore. Some of the most popular items include rare prehistoric fossils, skeletal remains of animals that existed during the Ice Age (Mammoth, Dire Wolf, Saber-Toothed Cat), gorgeous handmade jewelry, meteorites, Native American textiles, mummy remains, historic weapons, ancient pottery, and even a shrunken head.

CollectionsMap

Map of the origins of all of our Collection’s pieces, click to enlarge.

Taking a tour of our Collection is literally a trip through time and across the world—which means our staff always jump at the chance to take a tour in order to familiarize them with the Museum. “Each time there is a good number of new staff, you can count on our Curators to host a tour of our Collection. I go every single time because there is always something I haven’t seen and it gives me the chance to experience things that I won’t ever see except for maybe in a book. Our Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, for instance, is extinct, but we have one in our Collection and it is special every time I see it, in addition to all of the other pieces of local and world history,” noted Erika Asher, Development Assistant at the Boonshoft Museum.

So, tell your friends and family to get ready to embark on a world tour through time, except you won’t need to pack a bag or cross an ocean. For the first time, we are opening our collection vaults to the public for extensive, behind-the-scenes tours. These tours are guided by our knowledgeable curators and available to small groups of up to eight people. Tours last 90 minutes and vary between $150-$200, depending on the number of people in your party. All proceeds from the private tours go to the preservation of our artifacts and the Boonshoft Museum’s mission.

You can learn more about the Museum’s Collection here.

You can start the process of booking a Private Tour here.

You can get a jump start on your “world travels” by seeing where all of our artifacts come from by clicking here.

Summer is a Great Time to Be a Member!

We’re counting down the minutes until summer begins and we bet you are too. There’s so much to do: plan your vacations, summer camps, family outings, activities, and more. The list could go on forever, even though the summer season is only three months long. If your goals is to have some great summer family experiences that keep the kiddos happy — and probably more importantly, keep you under budget — check out a Dayton Society of Natural History Membership!

New and current Members can maximize their Memberships this summer with so many things to do, see, and experience in just three short months:

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The cost of a Museum Membership, transportation, and snacks (because everyone needs snacks!), can get you an entire summer of entertainment, family memories, and fun.

Here are some Dayton Society of Natural History summer highlights you won’t want to miss (bonus: everything listed below is either FREE for Members or Museum Members receive a discount).

New Exhibitions: Both the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery & SunWatch will welcome new exhibitions this summer. On June 4 the Amazing Butterflies opens at the Boonshoft Museum and Johnny Appleseed opens at SunWatch later on during the summer season. Members enjoy a special sneak preview of Amazing Butterflies from 9:00 a.m. – Noon on June 4 before it opens to the public.

Special Events: From Movie Nights at the Museum to the Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow hosted at SunWatch by the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans, there are some stellar events that you won’t want to miss this summer, here are some of the highlights:

Fort Ancient: Summer Solstice Sunrise on June 19, Nature Hike on July 9, Archaeology Day on July 16.

SunWatch: Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow on June 25-26, Kids’ Days throughout the summer.

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery: Movie Nights at the Museum (A Bug’s Life in June and Frozen in August), Red White & Boonshoft on July 4, and our Meerkat Mob’s Birthday on July 30.

To learn more or purchase a Membership, visit www.boonshoftmuseum.org.

 

 

 

Celebrating Science During Black History Month!

In February you’re on the look-out for Rosie’s shadow and something sweet for your Valentine, but most importantly, February is a month dedicated to the celebration of African Americans and their accomplishments, contributions, and impact on society. We are celebrating by exploring some of our favorite African American scientists, academics, historians, and more.  In an extension of our ongoing conversation about opportunities for careers in science fields — that lasts all year long! — we wanted to delve into the underrepresentation of minorities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers.

The Challenge:

Like women and other minority groups, African American men are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. In fact, 2010 Census data shows that African American men made up 6.2% of the population between 18 and 64, yet the National Science Foundation reported just 3% of scientists and engineers working in those fields are African American.

In 2015, a round table of African American STEM professionals cited a lack of resources, failing school systems, role models, and “relatability”. The proposed solutions to these problems are similar to ones that help entice women into STEM careers—start teaching and engaging students sooner and build up their self-confidence in the face of self-doubt.

Being Part of a Solution:

The Boonshoft Museum is doing its part to engage young students across multiple cultural, economic, and scholastic backgrounds by making a promise to our community to open its doors, free to the public, four times a year. New for 2016, these free Saturdays, known as Super Science Saturday, will feature enhanced science-based public programming, planetarium shows, roaming animals, and much, much more–all day, all free to the public. In addition to Super Science Saturdays, during the Dayton Regional Science Festival we also offer free field trip programming to qualifying schools so children can meet with STEM professionals, Universities, and Colleges in our community, in addition to having special programming throughout the Museum with our trained Museum Educators.

Some of our Favorites

At the Boonshoft Museum we do everything with a science-twist, so when we asked some of our educators and administrators to talk about their favorite African American figures, naturally we saw an array of scientists, medical professionals, historians, and more!

Mae C. Jemison

Mae-jemisonThe first female African American astronaut in space, Mae Jemison is a favorite of our Astronomy Department and Museum Educator, Robin Ramsey. In 1992 from September 12 to 20, Jemison flew into space aboard the Endeavour as a mission specialist. Her love for the sciences as a child followed her through her adulthood, as she attended Stanford University and received a bachelor degree in chemical engineering and then attended Cornell Medical College. Jamison was not only the first African American female astronaut in space, she is our favorite kind of philanthropist, creating the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which encourages children’s interests in science!

Regina Benjamin

ReginaBenjaminTiarra Callahan, our Special Events Coordinator admires Regina Benjamin, humanitarian and U.S. Surgeon General from 2009-2013.

“During her time as the surgeon general, Benjamin took on a wellness and prevention stance. She focused on maintaining a healthy body as opposed to a treat-sickness paradigm. As such, coordinating efforts with a number of federal agencies, she emphasized the importance of nutritious foods, regular exercise (including dance) and cessation of smoking. She also supported breastfeeding, including creating more spaces where women could do so comfortably, and exploring issues around suicide.

When I learned she was resigning as Surgeon General I was sad, but I later found that she would be returning to the La Batre clinic, where some of her patients could not afford to seek medical attention if it had not been for her efforts to make the clinic affordable. Over the length of her career, she has received many honorary degrees and accolades, including the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and the National Caring Award.”

Emmett W. Chappelle

Emmett_W_ChappelleCertainly, our Live Animals Department are huge fans of all-things-animals, but one of our Keepers, Steve, is a big fan of Emmett W. Chappelle.

“Someone that inspires me to keep on giving my all would have to be Emmett W. Chappelle, environmental scientist and biochemist,” Steve noted.

Chappelle lived on a small farm on the edge of town in Phoenix, AZ where his family grew cotton and tended to cows. After serving in the army, Chapelle attended Phoenix College and earned his B.S. from University of California. His degree in biology gave him the tools he needed to aid in the creation of safe supply of oxygen to astronauts and discovered how using a chemical derived from fireflies could detect life in water on Mars. He also served as an instructor at a medical college.

Theresa Singleton

Singleton,T 2013Jeff White, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield’s site manager is not only an educator he is a trained archaeologist—so naturally, he admires Associate Professor of Anthropology, Theresa Singleton. She was the first African-American to receive a PhD with a concentration in archaeology and the first African American to receive a J.C. Award in Historical Archaeology. Singleton specializes in Historical Archaeology, African American History & Culture, Slavery in plantation America, and Archaeology of the African Diaspora.

Not to be outdone, Theresa Singleton also joins Archaeologist, John Wesley Gilbert, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, and Ernest Everett Just, just a few more of Jeff’s favorites!

You and your family can learn more about famous African American scientists by clicking here.

Careers In Curiosity: To Infinity and Beyond!

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Jason Heaton, Assistant Director of Astronomy

What was your childhood dream job? Ballerina? Fire Fighter? Marine Biologist? Everyone is different, but it is certainly a rarity to be so inspired by something that you make it your life’s work. Jason Heaton, the Museum’s Assistant Director of Astronomy, visited the Boonshoft Museum as a little boy and fell in love with the possibilities that the night sky provided.

For this month’s Careers In Curiosity post, our guest blogger and Planetarium expert extraordinaire, Jason, will talk a little bit about running a Planetarium, teaching children and adults about our Solar System, and much more. Check out his blog below:

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In 2003 I had the chance to meet Neil Armstrong

Hello, Nice To Meet You

My name is Jason Heaton and I am the Assistant Director of Astronomy at the Dayton Society of Natural History. The Astronomy department at the Boonshoft houses an observatory, a planetarium, and astronomy related exhibits.

How I Started in Astronomy

My career in astronomy began at the Boonshoft when I was a child. My parents enrolled me in the Boonshoft summer programs for many years. I

exoplanets

The NASA sponsored Exoplanets exhibit, produced by the Boonshoft Astronomy Department

loved archaeology, paleontology, and the activities at SunWatch, but the planetarium was by far my favorite. An energetic and hilarious planetarium director named Art Goss inspired me and fueled my love for the night sky.

In school, science classes were my favorite. I went to college at the University of Dayton, enrolling in Aerospace Engineering. I began working in the planetarium as a part time job while I was in school.  During that time, I fell in love with astronomical visualization…making

planetarium

A planetarium audience rides an Ice Slide set on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

the stars come to life in the planetarium. I graduated U.D. with a degree in Computer Animation. I have been working for the Museum ever since, for more than twenty years now.

The Best Part of Working in the Astronomy Department

We do many different things in our department. We build astronomy exhibits such as the Exoplanet exhibit which recently opened. We house the Apollo Observatory, a large telescope open for free to the public on clear Friday nights. We have many different types of events that happen in the planetarium, people have proposed marriage, live bands have played, and astronauts have lectured. We have created planetarium shows and astronomical visualizations that have been shown around the world.  However, my favorite thing about working in the astronomy department is presenting the live shows about the night sky in the Dome.

starbuck

Speaking of magic, the planetarium is also one of the main stages for Harry Potter Camp, where I play Professor Starbuck, the Hogwarts summer school astronomy teacher.

Someone once said that as people we all have one thing in common…we all look up at the stars at some point in our lives and wonder. The planetarium is a unique place. When I was a child, it was magical.  People come to our planetarium to learn about the sky and experience that same feeling of wonder and magic.

As a presenter, I have witnessed the same feeling of magic in the eyes of children coming to the star shows. They will often come back after the show and ask a million questions, it becomes obvious that they will leave the museum loving the stars the same way I have.

Future Generations

You never know who is going to come into the planetarium and become a future astronaut or astronomer. The first person on Mars may be someone who is in school right now. The astronomers who find the first Earth-like planet; the mission specialist onboard a future space station; the scientists that will help us get back to the Moon; all of these people have one thing in common: someone, or something, inspired them and their love of the night sky, perhaps in a planetarium like ours.

5 Things You Should Know About the Super-Blood-Harvest Moon Total Lunar Eclipse this Sunday!

The countdown to the Super-Blood-Harvest Moon total Lunar Eclipse is winding down and many people can’t wait to see what the sky has to offer on September 27-28. Knowing that we won’t see another Supermoon Blood moon until 2033, this lunar occurrence is pretty special and a pretty spooktacular way to kick off fall and the official start to the Halloween season.

Before you join your friends and family for some Supermoon fun, find the 5 Must-Knows about the Supermoon—then, check out some of the urban legends and history behind the moon below.

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Credit: Space.com

Why is a Supermoon so super?

Our staff at the Museum think our Moon is pretty super every day of the year, but in this case, we are talking about a lunar occurrence that in the modern day has been named “the Supermoon”. We think Mega Moon sounds better because it’s alliterative, but hey, we can’t be picky when it comes to our favorite moon in the galaxy.

A Supermoon occurs when a full moon is closest to the Earth on its elliptical orbit. This results in the moon looking slightly larger in the sky to people on Earth. The technical name for a Supermoon is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun System, but Supermoon seems easier to pronounce, right?

Just how rare is a Supermoon? On average, every 14th full moon is a Supermoon.

eclipse_total_espanek_10-27-2004-e1358526755212What gives the moon that red tinge, famously deemed a “Blood Moon?”

Interestingly enough, a Blood Moon is not a term that astronomers commonly use. Expanding on that, actually calling something a “Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse” is redundant. Why? Because what gives the moon a red tinge is actually the total lunar eclipse itself!

Here’s why: During a lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow slowly moves across the Moon’s face, which appears dark. However, when the Earth’s shadow completely covers the Moon, it suddenly looks like is has been painted entirely red.

This actually has a lot to do with how sunlight moves through our atmosphere. Sunlight is composed of a range of frequencies, many of which are filtered out, but the least affected on the light spectrum is reddish in color. When this red-tinged light enters our atmosphere it is refracted (bent) towards the surface and again on the other side of the Earth. This double refraction sends the reddish light onto the Moon’s face during a total lunar eclipse—and then boom! Blood Moon (which is actually just a total lunar eclipse).

BloodMoon34What happens during a total lunar eclipse?

Much like Peter Pan had a rascally shadow, everything, including the Earth, does too. A Lunar Eclipse happens when the Moon passes directly into the Earth’s shadow. Because they are aligned, you will see a total Lunar Eclipse. Of course, this can only happen when the moon is full.

What, in fact, is a Harvest Moon?

The Harvest Moon is a name for the moon with no astronomical significance, and has a lot to do with the changing of the seasons. We just celebrated the autumnal equinox, making it officially fall. The Harvest Moon is the first full moon after the autumnal equinox, which also happens to be the same evening as the total Lunar Eclipse.

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Click on the image to learn more. Credit: Space.com

Will I be able to see the Super-Blood-Harvest Moon Total Lunar Eclipse where I live?

The short answer? Maybe. The good news is that half the planet will be able to watch this spectacular moon display, however, not if you live in an area that happens to have bad weather that evening.

Of course, as with most of our Friday night observing in the Apollo Observatory, everything in the sky is, “weather permitting”. If there are thick rain clouds around where you live, you are not in luck! However, if it’s a clear night and you live in the Western Hemisphere, especially in America and Western Europe, you will be able to witness the Supermoon eclipse in all its glory.

The partial eclipse begins at 9:07 PM EDT Sunday night, the total eclipse (blood moon) is from 10:11 to 11:23 PM, and the partial eclipse ends at 12:27 AM.  The partial eclipse can be described as when the Moon is partly in and partly out of the shadow, and will look white with a bite taken out of it.

West-Coasters: Unfortunately, the first partial stage of the eclipse will already be occurring when the moon rises as the sun sets. However, you’ll still be able to see catch the best parts on Sunday!

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Credit: HowStuffWorks.com

Fun Facts and Myth-Busts:

  • The term “Blood Moon” was originally a religious term coined by a Christian pastor.
  • The moon is made out of cheese? I think we all know that is entirely false. However, this was a popular fable in 16th and 17th century English literature.
  • Why do wolves howl at the moon? If you see this happen, it’s entirely coincidental. Researchers have found no correlation between the moon and howling canines. However, because wolves are nocturnal they are more likely to be vocal at night.
  • The first full moon after the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon because many crops ripen during the late summer/early fall. Before electricity, farmers would tend to their crops by the light of this full moon.

6 Tips and Tricks You Need To Know To Become a Star Gazing Pro!

Stop what you are doing immediately. If you are indoors, on a computer just take a break and go outside, if you are on a mobile device enjoying the great outdoors simply look up. What do you see? Pristine sky, a gorgeous sunset, a mysteriously shaped cloud that looks vaguely similar to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (of Ghostbusters fame)? We digress—often, we take the awe-inspiring vastness of our sky and space for granted. In the grand scheme of things we are pretty small, so it’s easy to not think about the limitlessness of space and just how special our Solar System is.

PlanetVideo

If you really want to know how small you are, check out the video above!

From a giant amber Harvest Moon to Halley’s Comet, our night sky holds dozens of beautiful displays of science and physics. One of the things most commonly appreciated by the public are meteor showers, so we asked Joe, Astronomy Department member, resident astrophysicist, and (now) guest blogger, to give us some tips and tricks on which meteor showers are best and how we can see them with the naked eye.

Click below to read Joe’s Guest Blog.

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