So You Want to See the Total Solar Eclipse This August

By JOE CHILDERS

Chances are you’ve heard that a rare astronomical event is happening on August 21; a total eclipse of the Sun.  Not only is it rare (there hasn’t been one visible from the Miami Valley since 831 CE), it is also spectacular!  Indeed, eclipse expert Fred Espenak,  who has been under the moon’s shadow more than twenty times, says “In rating natural wonders, on a scale of 1 to 10 a total solar eclipse is a million.”

 

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Total Solar Eclipse In France 1999   (Luc Viatour/wwwLucnix.be)

 

From Dayton this August we’ll see a deep partial eclipse—close, but no cigar.  We will get to see a total (or totality) solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, but if you’re impatient or don’t want to risk bad weather, you’ll want to travel down to Kentucky or Tennessee to see this year’s eclipse.

Here are three things you need to know:

  1. Do not expect to find a hotel, campground, or any other kind of accommodations whatsoever within driving distance of the eclipse path.

When it’s been forty years since the last American total solar eclipse, people who have been looking forward their entire lives to this got their reservations in early—up to three years ago!  So plan to sleep in your car, if at all.

  1. Do expect that traffic will be horrible that morning.

Everyone else who realized at this late date that there are no accommodations available will be driving in the morning of.  The eclipse happens around 2:30 p.m. or so in the afternoon, varying a little by location. You want to get into the path of totality many hours before that, lest you risk being stuck in traffic outside of totality.

  1. Do know that the eclipse is definitely worth taking a day off work, pulling the kids out of school, and putting up with nasty logistics to go see in person!

One cannot overemphasize how impressive a total solar eclipse is.  Photographs like this one do not do it justice.  Everyone has a limited number of opportunities to see a total solar eclipse in their lifetime, and everyone who sees one remembers it for the rest of their life!

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                        Solar Eclipse Map Across Kentucky                       (GreatEclipse.Com © Michael Zeiler 2014)

So my suggestion is this: plan to drive down in the pre-dawn hours of August 21, map out state highways that are less likely than interstates to be congested, and plan to see the eclipse from a box-store parking lot or a similar easily-accessed location.  But if you decide to stay in the Miami Valley, come on down to the Boonshoft Museum that day for all sorts of fun, eclipse activities for our partial eclipse!

Visit https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com for more on this topic.

How to Have a Great Visitor Experience at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

By ANGELA SHAFFER and EZEKIEL McLEAN

As the Boonshoft Museum explores ways of improving the quality of our guests’ experiences, we’ve developed a few approaches to help to ensure that your visit is fun, interesting, and safe. Every trip starts at the beginning, so plan for contingencies before leaving home.

Guests should be prepared to show a photo ID, as members, reciprocal members, and patrons using credit/debit cards will be asked to show their identification. If you have a reciprocal membership card from a partnering institution, please have that card with you as well.

The Museum does not host a cafe or restaurant, so bring along lunch and a few snacks for yourself and your family. You can also purchase items from the Food Chain vending area on the second floor. The Food Chain’s vending machines offer sandwiches, drinks, snacks, and other treats. There are also snacks and beverages available for purchase in the Discoveries Gift Shop near the front entrance of the Museum.

Be sure to dress for the weather, and consider that temperature fluctuations may occur that can make certain areas of the Museum warmer or cooler than average. Also consider bringing a change of clothing for kids, as they can get their clothing wet playing at the water table. You can place items in rental lockers located in the coat room in the front lobby of the Museum and change according to need.

The Boonshoft Museum has designated stroller parking areas – one inside the planetarium, and one just outside the Kids Place area on the first floor. The Museum offers a limited number of strollers and wheelchairs for rent during visits. See a Guest Services staff member at the front desk of the Museum for information.

There are maps and program guides available at the front desk at check-in. Elevators and stairway approaches also offer stationary maps with visitor information. Restrooms are located on each floor, and the Main Exhibition Hall is located on the second floor adjacent to the Food Chain vending area.

The Planetarium screens many unique science shows about topics as diverse as Sky Tonight, with some featuring dinosaurs like Flying Monsters and Did an Asteroid Kill the Dinosaurs? Still, others investigate the amazing wonders of the world. Be advised that they begin promptly on the hour. To ensure seating, be in line in front of the doors of the theater, (note that the line may often extend into the Hall of the Universe) at least five minutes before the start of the show!

If you or your child suffer a minor injury, a bump, abrasion, or simply need to apply a new Band-Aid, head to the front desk as quickly as possible. If you happen to see a Museum staff member along the way, stop them because they may be able to guide you to a closer first-aid location. We will just need you to fill out a quick incident report.

If your child is lost, head to the front desk right away. If you spot a staff member along the way, stop them as they may have a radio and can begin to mobilize others immediately. Otherwise, the front desk can start the process. You will be asked for a description of your child and where they were last seen. A staffer will stay with you should you choose to start looking, rather than stay at the front desk.

Museum staff members will clear areas closest to the child’s last known location. Once the child is found, staff members will communicate over radio how best to reunite the two parties. One of the most common places that parents lose sight of their children is on the climbing tower, as it can be accessed on either floor. If you have young children, have an adult on each level if possible; otherwise, you may want to consider not utilizing the climbing tower during your visit.

These are some helpful suggestions to help you enjoy your visit to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. If you have questions or thoughts that you’d like to share, please contact the Museum at www.boonshoftmuseum.org, or by calling (937) 275-7431.

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Salutes International Migratory Bird Day

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

On Saturday, May 13, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery will be celebrating International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). IMBD was established in 2000 to raise awareness about migratory birds and to encourage people to help protect their habitats. International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated across the Western Hemisphere since many birds move between North and South America.Migration is the seasonal movement of animals from one area to another, and birds migrate to find better resources. Migration occurs on a large scale; all or most of the birds living in the area move as a flock. Of the more than 650 species of birds that breed in North America, more than half are migratory.

Birds migrate to find better food and nesting sites. Birds that live and breed in the Northern Hemisphere move south for the winter. Winters in the Northern Hemisphere are cold and there are not many sources of food available; like seeds, fruits, and insects.

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Bird-watching at the Boonshoft

Birds migrate south to escape the cold and find better food resources, and then return to the north to breed. Birds that nest in the Northern Hemisphere tend to migrate northward in the spring to take advantage of growing insect populations, budding plants, and an abundance of nesting locations. Also, because of the earth’s tilt, days are longer in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere during the summer. Longer daylight hours mean that the birds can spend more time searching for food and feeding their chicks.

Not all birds migrate. For example, you probably see cardinals in your backyard in the summer and during the winter. Some birds migrate short distances, like moving across states. Around 350 bird species that live in North America migrate from the United States and Canada to wintering grounds in Central and South America.

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Migratory Birds In Winter

The Arctic tern is famous for its migration; it flies from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, which means they fly about 40,000 miles every year. The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet. The average Arctic tern lives about thirty years, and will travel 1.5 million miles during its lifetime, the equivalent of a round trip from Earth to the moon over three times!

For more information on International Migratory Bird Day, check out http://www.birdday.org/.

Falcon Cam Update – April 21, 2017

By LIZ TOTH

The falcon eggs hatched!

On Saturday, April 15, egg shells could be seen on the ledge, but the female spent almost all her time on the nest preventing a view of what was beneath her. By Wednesday, we were able to get a good view of the chicks and all four eggs have successfully hatched!

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Falcon Shells to the Side

The chicks seem to be doing well, and both parents have been very attentive, feeding and keeping the chicks warm.  When they are not able to be seen they are safely tucked under the female.  She broods the chicks, keeping them warm with her body until they are about a week old and they can maintain the correct body temperature on their own

She has special featherless brooding patches that allow the warm skin of her body to press right up against the chicks and keep them warm.  This behavior is easy to see from above.  It looks like she is wiggling quickly back and forth, but she is snuggling her brooding patches down on the chicks.

The Age of Mammals and Ice Comes to Life at the Boonshoft Museum

By MACKENZIE ENGLISH

The Boonshoft’s newest exhibit, The Age of Mammals and Ice, takes families back into the past to visit the animals of the last Ice Age.  Here we can see how some of the largest land-dwelling animals would have looked and moved about if they were still around today.  We also can see how the places they lived looked different than they do today.  It is not every day that you can come to a museum to see extinct animals come to life!

My favorite of these Ice Age mammals is the Doedicurus from South America.  Imagine a car-sized armadillo walking through your back yard eating all of the vegetables in your garden.This mammal did not have to worry about too many things trying to eat it because of the thick armor it wore all over its body.  It also had a large bony mass at the end of its tail that could be used as a club.

Museum Guests Enjoy The Age of Mammals and Ice Exhibition

The wooly mammoth and smilodon  (saber-toothed tiger) both lived here in Ohio.  The wooly mammoth is a cousin of the elephant that lived in the grassy tundra of the Ice Age.  They would have used their large tusks to scrape away snow and ice to look for grass to eat.  The saber-toothed tigers would look for any animals they thought would make a good meal, which included the wooly mammoth.

Ice Age Wooly Mammoth

One of the largest land mammals to ever live was the Baluchitherium.  This large mammal was closely related to the rhinoceros but lacked the horn found on the head.  Found in Eastern Europe and throughout most of Asia, they would have eaten any vegetation they could find.

Also found in the exhibit is the wooly rhinoceros.  These rhinos were slightly larger than modern-day rhinos and were covered in a wooly fur, much like the wooly mammoth.  This fur would have helped them to stay warm as they lived in the cold tundra of northern Asia and Europe.  Their closest living relative today also happens to be the smallest rhino, the Sumatran rhino.

Not only do we have on display some of the largest mammals that once roamed the planet, but we also have one of the largest birds.  The Gastornis, or Terror Crane, was a large flightless bird found in Europe.  It took a long time for scientists to determine if it ate meat or its vegetables but now it is believed to be a vegetarian.  This comes from the lack of hooked claws and a lack of a hook on the beak, which would suggest consumption of meat.  So think of it as a very large chicken.  It probably would taste like one too.

Animal Enrichment Program Gives Discovery Zoo Dwellers a More Natural Life Experience

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

 

Have you ever looked into an animal exhibit at the Boonshoft Museum or another zoo and wondered what all of that stuff is in there? Boxes, bags, shredded paper, hay, plastic balls,

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Splasher and Diver, North American River Otters in Their Firehose Hammock

why are the animals playing with trash?

 

Well, what’s one person’s trash is another animal’s treasure! Have you ever looked into an animal exhibit at the Boonshoft Museum or another zoo and wondered what all of that stuff is in there? Boxes, bags, shredded paper, hay, plastic balls…why are the animals playing with trash?

In addition to making sure the animals in the zoo have food, water, and clean habitats, zookeepers also provide enrichment for the animals under their care.

The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA. The AZA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA represents more than 200 institutions which meet the highest standards in animal

Malcolm and King Eastern Box Turtles with Browse

care, provide a fun and educational family experience and dedicate millions of dollars to scientific research, conservation, and education programs. This means that even though the Discovery Zoo is not nearly as big as the Cincinnati or Columbus Zoo, the animals receive the same quality of care that they would at a larger institution.

The AZA defines enrichment as: “a process for improving or enhancing zoo animal environments and care within the context of their inhabitants’ behavioral biology and natural history. It is a dynamic process in which changes to structures and husbandry practices are made with the goal of increasing behavioral choices available to animals and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors and abilities, thus enhancing their welfare. As the term implies, enrichment involves the identification and addition within the zoo environment a specific stimulus that the occupant wants or needs but which was not previously present.”

This is basically a long and complicated way of saying that zookeepers provide our animals with activities to promote their natural behaviors, and to keep them mentally and physically active. Life in the wild is really tough, and animals spend all their time fighting to survive. Most animals spend around 80% of their time foraging for food! Finding food isn’t easy, predators often spend hours stalking their prey, and sometimes they aren’t successful. Many herbivores eat plants that are low in nutrition, so they have to spend most of their day grazing.

Animals in the zoo don’t have to worry about predators, disease, finding food, drought,  or natural disasters. Since life in the zoo is a little easier, zoo animals usually have more free time than they would in the wild, and zookeepers try to fill up this free time by providing their animals with enrichment. Enrichment can be almost anything; mulch, rearranging logs and rocks, scents, snake skins, puzzle feeders, and paper bags are just a few examples of enrichment done at the Discovery Zoo. When providing animals with enrichment, zookeepers take into account the natural history of that animal, or how it lives in the wild. For example, bat-eared foxes have great hearing to listen for insects digging under the ground, so keepers will put crickets and mealworms in paper bags full of hay. The foxes use their huge ears to listen for the bugs and then tear into the bags for their reward.

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Patience Sloth with Browse and Diet on a Skewer

When building exhibits, enrichment will often be built in. In our meerkat exhibit, one of the big termite mounds actually has a network of tubes inside that we can put crickets into. The tubes are like a maze and make it so the crickets take a long time to get out, so they’ll drop out randomly throughout the day. This is a great way to keep our meerkats active since they’ll investigate the termite mound many times during the day to see if any more crickets have fallen out. Wild meerkats spend their days foraging for insects, rodents, and other animals, so feeding them in this way helps them to express that natural behavior.

A good enrichment program tries to stimulate all of the animal’s senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and sound. At the Boonshoft Museum, we provide our animals with a variety of different scents; spices, fruit extracts, and even scents from other animals. We play bird calls and other nature sounds for a lot of our animals, and our screech owl Houdini even called to a recording of a screech owl. Something we do for a lot of our animals is put their food in a puzzle feeder or a toilet paper tube. The animal will use its sight and smell to investigate the object, and then use touch to get the food out.

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Luther Agouti Investigating a Snake Skin

Enrichment isn’t limited to animals in zoos, you can also enrich your pets at home. Commercially available puzzle feeders are a great way to slow down a fast eater or to keep your dog busy when you’re away. Catnip is a great example of scent enrichment that can be used for cats at home, and your cat may even like other spices that are in your kitchen. Whenever giving an animal enrichment, it’s important to research and make sure that it is safe for the animal.

Join us at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery on Saturday, February 18 for our first-ever Enrichment Day from 10am-4pm. See our Discovery Zoo residents get some awesome enrichment, learn more about enrichment at activity tables, and meet some of our ambassador animals! Do you love an animal in the Discovery Zoo? We will have enrichment “Valentines” with presents you can get for your favorite animal!

 

Science @ Home: Candy Sparks

SCIENCE @ HomeFourth of July and fireworks go hand-in-hand, but you don’t have to attend a fireworks display to see a spark! That’s right, with some simple science, you can create spark (in your mouth!) with some refreshing candy.

What You’ll Need:

  • A bag of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers (not sugarless)
  • A pair of pliers (use if you are not allowed to crunch on hard candy)
  • A mirror or a group of friends

Experiment:

  1. Head into your bathroom and stand in front of a mirror. If you are at home with friends, you can head outside when it’s dark. Keep in mind you will need complete darkness to best see the spark, so if you are outdoors head to an area of your yard with the least light pollution.
  2. Give your eyes 3-5 minutes to adjust to the dark, you will be able to see the spark better this way.
  3. Place the Wint-O-Green lifesaver between your teeth, make sure you are standing across from your friends or directly across from the mirror. Bite down on the Wint-O-Green with your mouth or crush it with a pair of pliers.
Wintogreen_Video

Click to play

Observations:

What did you see? Was it a greenish-blue light? If you didn’t see the spark, repeat the experiment a few more times until you see the spark.

What is Happening?

You’ve created a little storm in your mouth, that’s right! This actually is more similar to lightning than it is to a sparkler. Lightning is an electric stream that excites nitrogen molecules in the air, proving them with extra energy which is released as visual light.

When sugar is crushed with teeth or pliers, the pieces become negatively and positively charged, making electricity jump through the air between the pieces of sugar. This is what creates light.

But can’t I just crush a piece of sugar and see the reaction? The answer is no, but that’s just because the release of energy when regular sugar is crushed is ultraviolet light, which can’t be seen by the naked eye. However, the wintergreen in the Wint-O-Green Lifesavers is a special substance that absorbs ultraviolet energy and transforms it into visual light – aka triboluminescence.