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!

Boiling Water to Blistering Vapor..the Classic Below Zero Experiment

It’s the dead of winter in the Midwest and the term “arctic blast” has been thrown around quite a few times—which means one thing…boredom! Sure, the appeal of having a day off school and/or work is great until about 11:30 a.m. when you realize it’s -12 degrees outside which means any expectation of shopping, sledding, or running errands is out the window. While being stuck at home has a downside, there is also an upside, with boredom comes curiosity and with curiosity comes experimentation and where there’s experimentation, there’s science!

SnowScience

Click to view

Though we don’t encourage you do to the following experiment at home, as our professional educators have the experience, safety equipment, and space to experiment in (literally) freezing cold temperatures, the “boiling water to snow” experiment is a popular one — especially on YouTube, but why? Perhaps because the same thing you use to cook a steaming plate of spaghetti turns to “snow” virtually instantly. Impressive, right? But what is actually happening? Here’s the science behind it:

The boiling water is closer to evaporating than cold water, so when you throw very hot water into very cold, dry air, the smaller droplets are able to cool off and evaporate rapidly into a cloud before it reaches the ground. What you are actually seeing isn’t the formation of snow, but rather boiling water that evaporates into a vaporous cloud. This experiment works best when the air and dew point are below zero (so we were in luck today!).

Weather is way cool – no pun intended — especially when you can experiment, but we must admit that in these kind of temperatures that we can wait for a summertime liquid nitrogen ice cream experiment, but for now we’ll just have to enjoy the chilly weather and we hope you do to!