An Extraordinary Summer by Angelica Y. Yang


Today's guest writer is Mind Mover intern Angelica Y. Yang, a student of BSE Biology from the University of the Philippines - Diliman.

When The Mind Museum opened its doors to the public last 2012, I couldn't help but join my fellow science enthusiasts in exploring this beautiful work of art. At that time, I was only in second year high school, having taken up a little bit of high school Biology - which was mostly rote memorization from Campbell Biology. Even though I was very young, all the discoveries, inventions, and scientific explanations in the museum spoke to me. 

The accuracy of the information as well as the artistic way they were presented made me believe that the arts can never be truly divorced from the sciences. 

A special project of the Bonifacio Art Foundation, it is no surprise that The Mind Museum has raised the bar for science museums all across the country - making it a hot spot for families, friends, and curious kids. 

On my first trip around the Museum, I reveled at the cool inventions of scientists as well as the awesome sky dome that allowed us to get a 360 degree view of a realistic astronomy presentation. My favorite part of the entire Museum was the Astronomy section, where thousands of glittering stars decorated a black canvas overhead. I spent the most time there up until a brief announcement by the VSS saying that there would be a live science show at the Atom Gallery. 

Keeping a mental note to come back to the alluring and fascinating Astronomy section, I set off and walked to the Atom Gallery. It was full house, and I was lucky to get a seat on the edge. Everyone was so excited, anticipating what the science show would be about. A few moments later, a girl in a blue lab coat walked to the front of the stage, carrying a white tray with all her equipment. Everyone stared in awe as she prepared the chemicals and glassware needed for her experiment. She then explained that she would be talking about acids and bases. 

I knew what acids and bases were. I knew how to read the pH meter, as well as use indicators. But the kids around me didn't. They were surprised, shocked, elated, and overjoyed to see such 'common' reactions. From a simple color change to a small fizz in the mixture, they would clap and smile. Although these weren't my reactions, something in my heart fluttered as a child would jump up and down, and beg for more. These children, I told myself, are future scientists. And to be a catalyst in making them happy, in making them want to know more about the beautiful world of Science, is what I want to do (apart from wanting to find a cure for cancer). 

I then looked at the girl in the blue lab coat, smiling to herself as she'd call a child to help her with a procedure - and I told myself that I want to be like her - that I wanted to be a Mind Mover. That I wanted to inspire people and communicate the wonders of science to them. 

Fast forward to the start of summer 2016, when I was enrolled in the course BSE Biology (Bachelor of Secondary Education, Major Biology, Minor Chemistry) at UP Diliman. As an Education major, I have done a few demonstrations, but these were controlled, meaning they were done inside classrooms - in front of people I knew. But I knew this was not enough. This summer, I told myself, I would break out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to be able to talk in front of people I don't know. 

Then my 'secret' dream came rushing back towards me, like a cold fever on a hot night. Mind Mover. Yes, I have always wanted to be a Mind Mover, that cool scientist in a lab coat who did explosive experiments, and who was always a hit with the kids. 


Why not, I asked myself. Wanting to be in front of a lot of people you don't know isn't exactly what teenagers would like to do, unless they were performers. I was no performer. I was no science legend or 'Best in Biology' awardee. I was just me, a person who wanted to be so much bigger than I was. 

I think I over-prepared for the interview with Sir Art. I put everything I did from grade school up to college on my CV, and I compiled all my works in two bulky portfolios. I even showed up to the museum at 9:00 AM, two hours early for my interview. 

I admit, I was really nervous; even more so during the actual interview. I think the deciding factor for Sir Art was the short demonstration of a scientific concept using puzzle pieces. I literally had no idea on how to present all the parts of a cell using weird shapes. Instead, I focused on chloroplasts and how plants used hormones to keep themselves alive. After explaining, Sir Art asked me if I had any questions about the museum. I paused for a while, trying to process what he said (I was too scared to think properly after the intense demo). After that, he smiled and welcomed me to The Mind Museum.

I was shocked. I never even thought I would get in. I mean, it was on volunteer basis but I never knew that my impromptu demo with the weird puzzle pieces was decent enough. I was elated, overjoyed - just like the children I sat with last 2012. I was so happy that I even posted a celebration post on Facebook about the feat. 

Of course, I fulfilled my dream of getting accepted. Now, it was time to fulfill my dream of becoming the best Mind Mover ever (cue Pokemon theme song). The first Mind Mover demo I watched was that of Sir Pecier. He talked about "Why Space Is Dark". It was in this demo that I started to appreciate physics. Even though some of the concepts were quite challenging to explain, Sir Pecier was still able to get the crowd's attention and make them understand complex ideas. From his demo, I noticed the way he interacted with the crowd and how he always kept them on the edge of their seats before the culmination of an experiment. From him, I learned to interact with my audience, use a few Tagalog terms to make them realize that they were watching a live show in the Philippines, and to be genuinely interested in the topic.

Since I was stationed at the museum from June to July, I had to learn new experiments - some in the span of give minutes, when there was a sudden change in the schedule. However, the resident Mind Movers, particularly Ma'am Cara and Ma'am Artha, were always there to assist me. My favorite experiment, which I learned in ten minutes before doing it for the first time, was the Slime experiment. With glue, borax, water and food coloring, one could make colorful slime.

Surprisingly, kneading the water out of the semi-solid mixture was really satisfying, even though my hands always got 'slimed' with all the excess goo. A few other experiments that I really enjoyed were the Dino Demo series and Fire series. 

Aside from donning that lab coat, I also did some work inside the Mind Museum office. I helped out the other interns and Sir Art with a few exhibits. I think my most significant contribution was helping my fellow interns create a larger-than-life papier mache of three dinosaurs for the Dino Sleepover. 

Even with my non-existent craft skills, I was able to help piece up a dinosaur, and based on Ma'am Artha's celebration post, it was a hit during the sleepover.

During my free time, you'd either see me roaming around the museum in the Astronomy section or spending time inside the laboratory. Asked about my favorite place inside the Museum, it would be the laboratory. We interns are allowed to do experiments inside the laboratory and were told to use the chemicals there as much as we wanted - as long as we knew what we were doing. It was in the laboratory where I would 'check' the accuracy of my experiments. Also, it was in the laboratory I would stay before going out to perform. 


Performance-wise, I would say that I improved a lot. From a stuttering person to a confident Science Communicator, I think that I was able to make my audience feel my passion for the sciences. Sometimes, I get comments from people saying that I was really good - but for me, I know that I can do even better. Every day, I always try to learn something new about science and technology. Even though I was really tired, I always made it a point to discover something new every day, because that's what science is all about.

Becoming an intern for The Mind Museum has been an awesome, extraordinary and fulfilling experience. All the resident Mind Movers, interns, and VSS staff were very accommodating and understanding. In the BAFI office, personal growth was always prioritized. When I was in the office, there were always happy people around - and that's exactly what my ideal workplace would be like. 


Did her experience inspire you to want to volunteer for The Mind Museum's events and programs? For volunteer opportunities, email us at volunteers@themindmuseum.org.

To learn more about The Mind Museum's upcoming and regular activities, visit our website, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

How Juno Gained Speed Without Consuming Fuel by Lanz Lagman


Today's guest writer is MindMover intern Lanz Lagman, a student of BS Astronomy Technology from Rizal Technological University and a member of RTU Astronomy Society and Philippine Astronomical Society. 

Artist's rendition of Juno near Jupiter. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

Five years ago, Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral and its journey towards the largest planet of our Solar System began. A month ago in July 5, 2016, it successfully entered the planet's orbit as a part of its JOI (Jupiter Insertion Orbit) maneuver. Juno will slow down so that it will orbit Jupiter in two 53.5-day polar orbit periods (an orbit wherein the smaller body will pass by the poles of its parent body), before finally settling down to its sets of science orbits, that will provide us with high-quality data never seen before. 

This mission aims to give humanity more insights about the evolution and secrets of Jupiter, using high-end instruments to peer within its vast clouds - just as the Roman goddess Juno spied on Jupiter and uncovered his mischievous acts. 

How did Juno reach Jupiter as NASA intended it? 

Several months after its launch five years ago, it performed Deep Space Maneuvers on August 30 and September 14, 2012 in order to refine its trajectory for an Earth flyby planned to occur on October 9, 2013. Juno proceeded towards Jupiter, and arrived on July 4, 2016.

Juno's trajectory. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

But wait, why does Juno need to loop around the Sun and pass near Earth on October 9, when it could have been launched on that date instead of August 2011? What's the purpose of making Juno loop around the Sun? Couldn't NASA just launch Juno at the date of the Earth flyby?

It was necessary for NASA's plan to increase Juno's velocity. The Deep Space Maneuvers and the Earth flyby were integral parts of a move called a gravitational slingshot, also known as gravity assist. Juno passed by Earth on October 9, with its closest approach within 559 kilometers from Earth's surface. Juno's instruments were tested during this encounter, and its velocity relative to the Sun increased significantly, just enough for Juno to arrive at Jupiter as scheduled. 

As space agencies are commonly known to be bereft of funding, NASA has to carefully spend a measly $1.13 billion project investment to efficiently fulfill the goal of the Juno mission. Additionally, rocket fuel is very expensive; in order to carry more of it, rockets have to be much larger, and much heavier. That would not be economically efficient, considering that spacecraft traveling to outer planets are decelerated by the Sun. 

If NASA insisted on spending more on fuel and strapping more engines, the billion-dollar fund would end up like Bing Bong from Inside Out. Unless our probes learn to do something similar to the Instant Transmission technique, we currently have no fuel-efficient engines powerful enough to send space probes as heavy as Juno directly to planets.

 For comparison, New Horizons, the fastest spacecraft launched during its time, weighs only 478 kg, while Juno weighs 3625 kg. In the meantime, we're stuck with looping heavy spacecraft around planets for a speed boost. By doing this maneuver, Juno received a boost almost as powerful as a second rocket launch, for free!

Juno's Earth flyby trajectory viewed from Earth's perspective, perpendicular to Earth's orbital plane.
(Credit: NASA's Eyes to the Solar System)

How do gravitational slingshots work? 

Spacecraft seeking to increase their speeds have to steal a bit of momentum from a planet. Conservation of momentum and kinetic energy might seem to be violated, but since the planet is so massive, it's hardly affected, while the spacecraft gains a significant speed boost.

 Imagine a fast-moving vehicle carrying billions of pesos dropping a thousand peso bill at your feet. You can pick it up and buy whatever you want with it; the vehicle may have lost money, but it's negligible compared to what it retains.

In this article, we will use vectors as our main tool to understand them. Vectors are defined as things that have magnitude and direction; their positions however, do not matter. We add vectors by joining the arrowhead of one vector to the tail of another, and we subtract them by flipping either of the two vectors to their opposite direction.

 This means either two arrowheads are connected, or two tails. Afterwards, we must look at the flyby from two reference frames, one from the Earth's perspective, and the other from the Sun. The movement of a spacecraft aided by a gravity assist is best visualized by this animation.

A sample spacecraft's trajectory as viewed from a planet and the Sun's reference frame.
(Credit: David Shortt)

First, let's differentiate the reference frame of the Earth from the Sun. At Earth's reference frame, the Earth is at the center, and hence, it stays at the same position when viewed from the top. The initial and final velocity (velocity is only a magnitude) of Juno with respect to it are therefore the same. At the Sun's reference frame, however, the Earth is moving. As a result, Juno's initial and final velocity at this frame would be different. 

Vector components of Juno's initial conditions

In this diagram, Earth moves to the left, and its vector is defined as v ⃗_(E,S) . We also define a reference line, called the vertical. It is shown as a broken line here, and it is similar to a y-axis. The direction of our vectors will be defined with respect to it except Earth's vector. We could assume that Earth is moving in a linear matter at both perspectives.

 Juno's initial velocity with respect to Earth, going θ degrees from the vertical, is defined by the vector v ⃗_(J,E,i). In this case, v ⃗_(J,S,i), Juno's initial velocity with respect to the Sun's reference frame, going α degrees from the vertical, is the sum of the two previously mentioned vectors. To know whether Juno will gain or lose speed, let's look at the next diagram. 

Vector components of Juno's final conditions

Earth's velocity vector does not change as previously explained, but when you look at Juno's final velocity vector relative to the Sun v ⃗_(J,S,f), it increased. Similar to the previous situation, vectors are added when the head of one vector is connected to the tail of the other. As long as a spacecraft goes in the same direction as the planet, it will gain speed. If it goes toward the opposite side of the planet's velocity vector, it will slow down. 

Mission planners who plan to insert their space probes into a planet's orbit will use gravity assist to increase their speed when the planet is farther than Earth from the sun, and slow down when that planet is nearer than Earth. Well-known missions that used gravity assists to increase their speed include Voyagers 1 and 2.

Voyager 2 used all planets from Mars to Neptune as catapults, Voyager 1 did not visit Uranus and Neptune. On the other hand, Mariner 2 and MESSENGER gave a part of their momentum to Earth to slow down, and insert themselves into the orbits of Mercury.

For the more advanced reader, here's the detailed calculation. Be warned however, equations ahead!


Before we start our calculations, we must define how accurate our calculations would be. To make our computations easier, we simplify the scenario to two dimensions instead of three. We use NASA's eyes to the Solar System to produce this image, and the view would be at the Earth's reference frame, perpendicular to its orbital plane. NASA has stated that the initial and final velocities of Juno with respect to the Sun are 78,000 mph and 93,000 mph respectively.

Earth's mean orbital velocity is 29.78 km/s or, as we convert and round off, 67,000 mph. Using an on-screen protractor, we could therefore measure θ and φ, which when rounded off to the nearest ones, yields 20° and 60° respectively. Lastly, the calculated values for velocities would be rounded off to the nearest thousands. 


Since θ is 20° and the angle adjacent to its right is definitely 90°, its complement to the left side is 70°. The angle between v ⃗_(E,S) and v ⃗_(J,E,i) is the supplement of 70°, which is 110°. The magnitude of a vector is indicated by a bar at each side. By using the sine law, we could therefore solve for α:



By doing proper transpositions, equation (1) becomes:


Equation (2) then yields 74° for α. Now we proceed to solve for |v ⃗_(J,E,i)| , but first we must deconstruct the vector components of |v ⃗_(J,S,i)| and introduce equation (3):

Since the vertical is parallel to |v ⃗_(J,S,i) |  cos⁡〖αy ̂ 〗, the angle between it and v ⃗_(J,S,i) would also be α. Now we also deconstruct v ⃗_(J,E,i) the same way as v ⃗_(J,S,i)  and it also yields

By looking at the next illustration and with the help of equation (4), we could express |v ⃗_(J,E,i)| in terms of |v ⃗_(J,S,i)| and α:

Since we already have the value for |v ⃗_(J,S,i)| and α, we could now solve for |v ⃗_(J,E,i)| and we get 29,000 mph as an answer. We could proceed to solve for β and |v ⃗_(J,S,f)|. In order to do that, we must remember how the magnitudes of Juno's initial and final velocity with respect to Earth are related: 

Equation (6) is just the mathematical expression that their magnitudes are the same. We couldn't say that, however, to their respective directions. By looking at the next diagram, we could see how we can relate |v ⃗_(J,E,f)| to v ⃗_(J,S,f) and produce equation (7):

While this situation is very similar to the previous one, our approach will be different here compared to the previous initial diagrams. We could immediately solve for |v ⃗_(J,S,f)| using cosine law:


At equation (8), 180° - (90° - φ ), which is equal to 150° refers to the angle between v ⃗_(J,E,f) and v ⃗_(E,S), which is the supplement of the complement of φ

We now get 93,000 mph, exactly the estimate given by NASA.

For finishing touches, we could now solve for β using sine law:


From equation (9), we finally get β= 81°. Remember that it is just by coincidence that we arrived at the same value for |v ⃗_(J,S,f)| due to the simplifications we earlier mentioned. How we rounded off our obtained values is very loose compared to how calculations in astrodynamics are done, wherein values in the thousandths are considered very important.

REFERENCES: 

1. Juno Earth Flyby. (2013, October 9). Retrieved from: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/earthflyby.html
2. Shortt, D. (2013, September 27). Gravity assist. Retrieved from http://www.planetary.org/blogs/guest-blogs/2013/20130926-gravity-assist.html
3. A Gravity Assist Primer. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/basics/grav/primer.php
4. Cain, F. (2015, December 23). How Do Gravitational Slingshots Work? - Universe Today. Retrieved from: http://www.universetoday.com/113488/how-do-gravitational-slingshots-work/
5. Quick Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press_kits/juno/facts

Why we will never see a full moon-sized Mars in our skies by Pecier Decierdo


Viral stories of Mars appearing as big as the full moon in our skies crop up regularly. The most recent time such stories became widely shared online was a couple of months ago, when the Red Planet was at its closest approach to Earth in 11 years. However, even during the time of closest approach (which was close to midnight of May 30 in the Philippines), Mars was still more than 75 million kilometers from Earth.

The biggest Mars will ever get versus the full moon. 
Photo credits: Mars NASA/STSci.
Image credit: David Le Conte.

75 million kilometers - how far is that? And how big, relatively speaking, is Mars anyway? Given the distances involved, will we ever see Mars as a red disk in our skies?

To get rid of the misinformation, it is important that we answer these questions. After all, while stories like a full moon-sized Mars get people excited about space science, the disappointment brought about by such unrealistic expectations might only turn people away from sky watching. It might even make them less excited about science news in general.

The size of Mars for selected dates throughout this year, compared to the size of the full moon.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Furthermore, the expectation of seeing the red disk of Mars in our skies is a symptom of a failure to understand the scales involved. To be fair, though, the scales involved are mind boggling. So let's help our boggled minds deal with the cosmic scales involved by playing with some balls.

Mars as a basketball

Not all closest approaches of Mars result in the same distance. That's because the orbits of planets are actually elliptical or squished circles (although the squishing in the case of Earth and Mars aren't that big). The closest Mars and Earth can ever get is 54.6 million kilometers. Last May 30, it came to within 75 million kilometers from Earth.


Not all closest approaches of Mars are made equal.
Image credit: lightstrider.com

Now imagine that Mars were the size of a basketball. The diameter of Mars is 6,780 kilometers. Meanwhile, that of a standard NBA basketball is around 9.5 inches or close to 25 cm. In this scale, how far was the Red Planet last May 30? Using simple ratio and proportion, we find that it is - wait for it - 2.75 kilometers away. Even at the minimum distance, basketball Mars will still be 2 km away.

Imagine standing along an empty EDSA (what a dream, I know) near the Magallanes MRT station. Then imagine staring into the direction of Ayala. Our basketball Mars would be near the flyover that leads to Rockwell. (For those not familiar with the distances in Manila, you can use Google Maps to check how these distances compare to landmarks in your place).

In comparison, the Moon would be a tennis ball just 14 meters away. (A basketball court is more than 15 meters wide).

A size comparison of the biggest rocky bodies in the inner Solar System.
Image obtained via Wikimedia Commons.

You can also watch this amazing video by Veritasium showing just how astounding the scales in the Solar System are. (Note that in the video, the Earth is the basketball. More accurately, when the Moon is a tennis ball, the Earth is a beach ball almost twice as big as a basketball.)

The right angles 

Astronomers measure sizes and distances in the sky by degrees of arc. For example, if you were in a vast plane or looking into the far distance at sea, the distance between the horizon and the point directly overhead (which astronomers call zenith) is 90 degrees of arc.

Now try holding one hand at arm's length against the sky. A hand span would measure 20 to 25 degrees, your clenched fist 10 degrees, and your pinky 1 degree. The full moon, on the other hand (heh) would measure around 0.5 degrees.

A handy way to estimate angles in the sky.
Image credit: timeanddate.com

In comparison, Mars was a mere 0.005 degrees last May 30. This means that the disk of an average full moon is a million times bigger than Mars then.

All of this is not to say Mars is not a remarkable sight with the naked eyes. The only things that can rival the Red Planet in brightness in this month's sky are the Moon (being very near - remember the tennis ball?) and Jupiter (which, despite being nearly 10 times farther than Mars, is so huge it still ends up appearing 2 1/4 times bigger).

The position of Mars in the early evening sky for the next few weeks. This image is a screen capture of the open source software Stellarium. The location for the software was set to Manila. Those living elsewhere can download Stellarium and look for Mars in their local sky.

If you missed Mars' closest approach this year, you can catch it in July 2018. Then, Mars would be closer to us, which means it would be slightly brighter and bigger. How much closer? Remember the basketball? It would be 2.1 km then. That's the distance between MRT Magallanes station and Buendia station.

The allure of the Red Planet

The red glow of Mars has intrigued sky watchers for thousands of years. For example, Mars' movement and reversals across the background of stars led Nicolaus Copernicus to propose the heliocentric model of the Solar System.

Observations made during close approaches of Mars have also placed the Red Planet squarely in the middle of the public's imagination. In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli performed observations of Mars that included features he called 'canali', which in Italian means channels. Many later thought this meant canals were discovered on Mars. This, of course, was a misinterpretation, but this has not stopped generations of storytellers from coming up with stories about the alien races that made these canals.

In 1894, American astronomer Percival Lowell also performed observations of Mars during a close approach and decided that the canals were real. He made a detailed map of Mars showing hundreds of these canals. This fired up the public's imagination anew, and has even led to great works of science fiction from the tales of H.G. Wells, to those of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

A 1906 New York Times piece citing Percival Lowell as the greatest authority on Mars, then claiming that Lowell's
observations have confirmed life on the Red Planet.
Image credit: The New York Times.

Because of its special place in the collective imagination, hyped-up, exaggerated, or misinterpreted stories about Mars are therefore nothing new. But I think that while speculative tales about Mars and its fictional inhabitants can make great fiction, the reality of Mars and the adventures we have undergone to study it are something even greater. 

The monumental challenges of going to Mars, for example, is something many fanciful tales fail to describe. However, the red glow of Mars is also what inspired one of the pioneers of the science that would take us to its rusty surface.

Robert H. Goddard described in writing a moment in childhood when, atop the branches of a cherry tree he was pruning, he was inspired to build rockets. 

"It was one of the quiet, colorful afternoons of sheer beauty which we have in October in New England, and as I looked towards the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars, and how it would look on a small scale, if sent up from the meadow at my feet," Goddard wrote. "I was a different boy when I descended the tree from when I ascended, for existence at last seemed very purposive."

He then went on to pioneer the science that has allowed us to send our many space probes and robots around and on the Red Planet.

Robert H. Goddard with an early liquid-fuelled rocket. Goddard himself was 
fueled by dreams of Mars.
Photo accessed through Wikimedia Commons.

So when you get a clear sky one of these nights, look for Mars and the other planets. They may never look as big as the full moon, but they will always be a delight to behold. Encourage young people you know to go sky watching, too. Who knows, Mars' red glow might just call out to them, and like Goddard, they might be inspired to pursue a career in science and engineering. One day, they might even end up walking on its distant but ever alluring surface.

Go sky watching whenever you can and whenever the sky is clear!
Photo credit: David Reneke's World of Space and Astronomy

REFERENCES: 

1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (n.d.). Mars in Our Night Sky. Retrieved from: http://mars.nasa.gov/allaboutmars/nightsky/mars-close-approach
2. Gaherty, G. (2016, May 25). Mars Makes Closest Approach to Earth in 11 Years on May 30. Space.com. Retrieved from: http://www.space.com/32795-mars-closest-to-earth-11-years-may-30.html
3. Le Conte, D. (2013, October 24). Mars Hoax. Retrieved from http://www.astronomy.org.gg/hoax.htm
4. Choi, C.Q. (2014, November 4). Mars Facts: Life, Water and Robots on the Red Planet. Space.com. Retrieved from http://www.space.com/47-mars-the-red-planet-fourth-planet-from-the-sun.html
5. Chayka, K. (2015, September 28). A Short History of Martian Canals and Mars Fever. Popular Mechanics. Retrieved from: http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/moon-mars/a17529/a-short-history-of-martian-canals-and-mars-fever/
6. Atkinson, N. (2016, March 16). Inspiration And An Old Picture Full of Awesome: Robert Goddard And His Rocket. Universe Today. Retrieved from: http://www.universetoday.com/89507/inspiration-and-an-old-picture-full-of-awesome-robert-goddard-and-his-rocket/

To learn more about The Mind Museum's exhibitions as well as upcoming and regular activities, visit the museum's website, and follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Dino Play, Now Open at The Mind Museum!


Despite being millions of years removed from human existence, dinosaurs have fascinated us since we first discovered their ancient remains. Is it their size and imposing stature that move us to awe? Or perhaps, is it the eventual end of their long dominance on Earth that reminds us of our own place in the planet's history?

Whatever it is that draws us to learn about dinosaurs, you can satisfy this curiosity by visiting the Mind Museum's latest traveling exhibition, titled Dino Play: Explore the Mind-Blowing World of Dinosaurs!


Launched this past June 29, Dino Play invites young dinosaur fans to come and explore the world of dinosaurs. Right up front is a customized Sarao Motors jeep that evokes Jurassic Park and a safari-like feel just before you enter the exhibition itself. 


You are also greeted by a T. rex sculpture and giant dinosaur eggs, which provide opportunities for memorable photographs. The exhibition begins by introducing guests as to what dinosaurs actually are, and how they are related to the more familiar modern reptiles.


Leading you into the exhibition are footprints representing the massive impressions left when dinosaurs used to roam the Earth. You can leave your own impression and compare your tracks to dinosaurs such as the T. rex and the Velociraptor.

Dino Play is divided into four nests, beginning with Dino Dig. Here, guests use their Paleontologist Field Kits to reveal fossils hidden in the excavation sites. 


Paleontologists, or scientists who study ancient life forms, regularly take to the field and dust off rocks to look for fossils and what their surroundings imply about the dead creature: its habitat, its likely diet, and sometimes, even possible behaviors. Fossils serve as natural snapshots of a world gone by.


Investigating fossils further will lead you into the Dino Lab, where you can examine actual fossil remains. You can look at dinosaur bones, petrified wood, ancient shelled creatures called ammonites, and even dinosaur poop that has since turned into stone! 

Another thing we can learn about fossils is that, by studying the rocks around them, we can estimate when the creatures that left these fossil remains lived. And, by combining all this information, we can get a good idea about a timeline of the evolution of ancient animals.



In the Dino Fun area, you can go hands-on with a variety of activities: you can make your own fossils, play with the Dino Family Tree, and learn about a day in the life of a dinosaur.



 After that, you can also climb the Dino Lookout Tower and spot any rogue dinosaurs that may be hiding in the vicinity.


Once you've well and fully immersed yourself in the world of dinosaurs, why not become one yourself in the Dino Den? In this activity area recommended for kids 2-8 years old, they can put on their dinosaur costumes and stomp around in a Jurassic land with their friends and classmates. 




Each nest not only provides you and your family with fun activities to enjoy, but also with ample information on how dinosaurs lived and are studied. Adult Guides are also provided for parents and teachers; these are manuals that can be found in each nest, highlighting the activities and supplementary information they can use to engage their students and enhance their learning experience.


Even the outside areas provide interactive learning: you can measure your height and compare this to those of the dinosaurs!

Dino Play provides an excellent opportunity for kids and kids at heart to learn about some of the most intriguing creatures that have ever lived in our Earth's history. 

To learn more about The Mind Museum's other traveling exhibitions as well as upcoming and regular activities, visit the museum's website, and follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Astronomy enthusiasts everywhere can contribute to Juno's mission by Pecier Decierdo


Yesterday, NASA's Juno spacecraft successfully performed a sensitive maneuver that inserted it into a unique orbit around Jupiter. After an almost 5-year journey spanning tens of millions of kilometers, the spacecraft only had to adjust to a 1-second difference in its planned arrival at the gas giant.

Fig 1. You can suggest and even vote on a point of interest for Juno's JunoCam!
Screenshot from: https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/discussion

Juno's mission scientists will soon be busy analyzing the scientific data gathered by its suite of instruments that have been designed to peer through Jupiter's veil of clouds. In addition to these instruments, Juno also has the JunoCam.

JunoCam is a color camera on board the spacecraft that will allow astronomy enthusiasts and amateur astronomers all around the world to perform citizen science.

Fig 2. Location of JunoCam and a few other instruments aboard Juno.
Image credit: NASA

JunoCam and Citizen Science

Citizen science is what happens when amateurs contribute to the advancement of scientific projects, typically in collaboration with professional scientists.

For example, citizen scientists around the world help professional biologists identify new species of living organisms and determine the maximum range of known species. Citizen scientists can also help hunt for possible exoplanets hiding in the vast data gathered by the Kepler space telescope.

Fig 3. Citizen scientists can collaborate with professionals to add to our pool of knowledge.
Image credit: Huffington Post

With JunoCam, the public will act as an imaging team for a camera that will come breathtakingly close to the biggest planet in our Solar System. In this project, the public will be performing crucial processes from identifying the features of Jupiter for the camera to focus on to producing the processed views.

"This is really the public's camera," said Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator. "We are hoping students and whole classrooms will get involved and join our team."

Throughout Juno's nearly 5-year journey, the JunoCam has taken several snapshots to test whether it is working properly. The first snapshots of JunoCam were not of Jupiter, but were in fact of Earth. These were taken during Juno's flyby in October 2013, when the spacecraft came close to the Earth for a gravitational assist.

Fig 4. Snapshots of the Earth taken via the JunoCam during Juno's flyby in 2011.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

During the flyby, Earth's gravity gave Juno the extra boost that allowed it to race into its distant target - Jupiter. The flyby occurred more than two years after Juno was launched into space in August 2011.

JunoCam to provide intimate look at Jupiter

As Juno was approaching Jupiter last week, JunoCam took several snapshots of the gas giant and some of its moons. The camera was then put on hibernation during Juno's successful Jupiter Orbital Insertion yesterday. When it is turned on, the results of public discussions about which parts of Jupiter to focus on will be implemented. Members of the public can also help process the images taken. 

You can go to this link to join the discussion. Right now, voting on which Jovian features to focus on isn't up yet, because while Juno is already in orbit around Jupiter, it is yet to enter the science phase of its mission. The science phase will start in the middle of October.

Fig 5. Photos taken by JunoCam shortly before Jupiter Orbital Insertion.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

When the camera goes online again, the world will be treated to very close up views of the surface of Jupiter which citizen scientists have produced.

"JunoCam will capture high-resolution color views of Jupiter's bands, but that's only part of the story," said Juno program executive Diane Brown. "We'll also be treated to the first-ever views of Jupiter's north and south poles, which have never been imaged before."

This is a treat indeed, because we now know that Jupiter's poles have some of the Solar System's most fantastic display of lights - aurorae several times bigger than the entire Earth!

Amateur astronomers to help plan JunoCam's targets

Juno's mission scientists are also collaborating with amateur astronomers everywhere to help in planning JunoCam's targets. They are calling on amateur astronomers around the world to send their ground-based observations of the gas giant to help in deciding which parts of Jupiter's surface to focus on.

Christopher Go, a leading amateur astronomer based in the Philippines, is part of the support group for the Juno mission.

Go has been taking photographs of Jupiter from his observatory in Cebu since 2004. His observations led to his discovery of a feature on Jupiter dubbed the "Red Jr.", because it looks like a smaller version of the famous Great Red Spot.

Fig 6. Photos of Jupiter, showing the Great Red Spot and the so-called "Red Spot Jr", taken by Christoper Go.
Image credit: Christopher Go

"I am delighted that the amateur community has been invited to collaborate on Juno and excited at the opportunity to make an important contribution to the mission," Go said. 

And NASA is more than happy to invite the public to get involved.

"We want to give people an opportunity to participate with NASA, and public involvement is key to JunoCam's success," said Bolton. "This is citizen science at its best."


REFERENCES:

1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2015, December 5). To Jupiter with JunoCam! NASA Website. Retrieved from: http://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/to-jupiter-with-junocam
2. Pandey, A. (2016, July 5). NASA'S Juno Mission: Discuss and Vote What 'JunoCam' Captures As It Orbits Jupiter. International Business Times. Retrieved from: http://www.ibtimes.com/nasas-juno-mission-discuss-vote-what-junocam-captures-it-orbits-jupiter-2389301
3. Europlanet (2016, May 12). Amateurs prepare big-picture perspective to support Juno mission. Europlanet. Retrieved from: http://www.europlanet-eu.org/amateurs-prepare-big-picture-perspective-to-support-juno-mission/
4. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2016, July 2). Juno. Retrieved from: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/main/index.html
5. Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2016). Jupiter Orbit Insertion Online Press Kit. Retrieved from: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press_kits/juno/

To learn more about The Mind Museum's exhibitions as well as upcoming and regular activities, visit the museum's website, and follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!