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.

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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.

I Say Hedgehog, You Say Groundhog, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!

By STEPHANIE HYLINSKI

One of the hardest parts of being a zookeeper is saying goodbye to the animals in your care. The Live Animals Department at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery was saddened by the unexpected death of our groundhog, Rosie, in October of 2016. Rosie died due to complications from old age, as she was at least six years old. Groundhogs typically live 6-8 years under human care.

Rosie came to the Boonshoft Museum from the Wildlife Center of Minnesota in November of 2011. She had been found in the road running in circles and was taken to the Wildlife Center for rehabilitation. Rosie was not able to be released into the wild because of a head injury, so the Boonshoft Museum became her permanent home. Rosie was a wonderful ambassador for her species and an excellent weather forecaster. She predicted the weather at Groundhog Day for five years, and she was almost never wrong!

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                 Rosie the Groundhog

After the passing of Rosie, we realized that we would need to find a replacement very soon, as Groundhog Day was only a few months away. Rosie, and groundhogs in general, can be very lazy in a zoo setting, especially during the wintertime when they normally hibernate. Because we only have so much space in the Discovery Zoo, the Live Animals Department staff decided that another animal would better engage and educate our visitors. Instead of doing Groundhog Day in 2017, we were going to do Hedgehog Day! A hedgehog would not need as much space as a groundhog, and a hedgehog could also be an ambassador animal. Our ambassador animals travel to schools, senior centers, and other places around the community to educate people about animals, and give them a chance to meet the animals up close.

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                Quilliam the Hedgehog   

Now you may be thinking, “Hedgehog Day? Are you guys crazy?” Maybe! But Hedgehog Day has actually been around longer than Groundhog Day! Hedgehog Day began in the Roman Empire when folks considered the weather on Candlemas to predict future weather. Candlemas is a Christian holiday on February 2, and the saying goes:

“If Candlemas Day is clear and bright,
Winter will have another bite.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.”

Legend has it that the Romans believed that conditions during the first days of February were good predictors of future weather, and they looked to hedgehogs for their forecasts. These two traditions melded in Germany and were brought over to the United States by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Lacking hedgehogs, the German settlers substituted with native groundhogs, and Groundhog Day was born. Unlike modern Groundhog Day, the Romans watched to see if the hedgehog saw its shadow at night. This makes sense since hedgehogs are nocturnal!

We’re very excited for visitors to meet our four-toed hedgehog, Quilliam, on Groundhog Hedgehog Day! Come to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 2, to see if Quilliam predicts an early spring!

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.

Deck the Halls! Plan Your Holiday Get-Together at the Boonshoft Museum

By MICHAEL L. SAMPSON

When the temperature outside falls like the leaves on the trees, we’re reminded of the coming holiday season. If there must be cold weather, we’re at least blessed with a bit of holiday respite. Those days when families get together to share good times in a spirit of fun and enjoyment. When you think about planning that special family or company get-together, consider having your unique event at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

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Private events can make the most of Museum space to create a great atmosphere for guests.

The Museum makes a wonderful place to celebrate the holidays, and is the perfect locale for party animals of all ages. There’s no venue quite like it for an unforgettable, festive occasion. Imagine being surrounded by the mysteries of the universe, or dinosaurs that roamed the earth millions of years ago. Whether it’s family get-togethers, company Christmas parties, Kwanzaa or New Year celebrations, enjoy access to select areas of the Museum – or why not just book the total facility for your holiday celebration!

Book by November 28 (Cyber Monday) to hold that preferred date on your calendar. Special rates are available for holiday season rentals. To check out what you can save, contact Jodi Rettig, Manager, Sales and Rentals, at (937) 275-7431 x 113.

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With select rental packages, Museum guests can enjoy planetarium programs, Science On a Sphere® demonstrations, and live animal programs that actually encourage you to touch the animals. Get up-close and personal in the Tidal Pool with a leather sea star, chitons, and even the beautifully-colored sea anemonies. There’s private space in the Bieser Discovery Center for groups of up to 40 guests, or if you’re planning a larger bash, the Museum can accommodate up to 1000 of your closest friends! We’re also happy to recommend our preferred caterers, experienced at endowing Museum affairs with delicious flair. Imagine how fun and enlightening your event will be with our spectacular Museum exhibits, programs, and demonstrations as part of your memorable holiday affair.

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.

 

 

 

5 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day This Friday!

A recurring theme both at the Boonshoft Museum and our sister sites, SunWatch and Fort Ancient, is conservation. We conserve artifacts and specimens, and we teach children and families about our natural resources and how we can best preserve them. On Earth Day, we are all acutely aware of the impact that humanity has on our planet and its inhabitants, some big (like the Polar Bears at the Columbus Zoo) and some small (like Patience, the Boonshoft Museum’s Two-Toed Sloth).

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Two-Toed Sloths just like Patience face habitat loss due to deforestation of the South American rain forests.

It’s easy to be intimidated by the effort requires to slow down the effects of deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, but the Museum is committed to making sure that everyone, through small changes, has the ability to make a HUGE, positive impact on our environment–and what better way to kick-off a year of “green” living than by celebrating Earth Day on April 22!

Here are 5 simple things you can do that will have a big impact on our environment:

  1. Actively Educate – By attending events like the Boonshoft Museum’s Earth Day Celebration and Super Science Saturday, your family will learn about our natural resources, like the Miami Valley Aquifer, in addition to how we can use science to conserve, preserve, and sustain our natural resources. Most of our special conservation days are included with regular admission or free to the public, so be sure to check our Calendar frequently for upcoming events!
  2. Be a Good Steward – One of the most critical challenges to the world today is climate change. The change in climate affects the world’s ecosystems and has a ripple effect to which humans are not immune. Climate change affects our food sources and the economy. To be a good steward of the environment, try to save energy in your household. Simply turning the lights off when you leave a room, keeping your house a few degrees warmer during the summer, and unplugging electronics when you leave for school and work can collectively have a large impact on your energy usage and wallet!
  3. Purchase With a Purpose – You can shop smart and help fight deforestation by using sustainable alternatives to products that use Palm Oil and are created with recyclable materials. Palm oil is a key contributor to rain forest deforestation and can be found in common household items and food, like candy and cereal—even makeup. Opt into purchasing certified recycled products and support companies that use sustainable practices. Click here to view a list of companies that are dedicated to saving the environment.
  4. Plant for Pollinators – Between honey bees, bats, and butterflies, millions of dollars worth of crops and food are cultivated each year. With one in every three bites of food being indirectly or directly a result of honey bee pollination, something has to be done about their dwindling populations. Many of our pollinators are at risk due to habitat loss, so the best way to combat that is to create a pollinator-friendly place in your back yard! Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, a flowering plant that can easily be planted in your back yard. You can also opt for a bat house or plant a bee friendly garden. Some honey bees are often confused with wasps, so if you have a nest that you wish to remove, ask a professional if it is a honey bee hive and if it is contact a local apiarist (beekeeper).
  5. Get Active – If it’s a beautiful day and you need to run errands, consider riding a bike instead of taking your car. Not only does Dayton have some of the best bike trails regionally, biking to work is a green alternative to a car commute and it keeps you healthy! The burning of fossil fuels from motor vehicles creates both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, both of which affect our atmosphere and add to changes in climate.

Just doing these 5 simple things can help save our environment and its inhabitants! Learn more tomorrow during our Earth Day Celebration!