Imagine the Moon With Us This Winter!
This winter, we’re stopping to #LookUp and celebrate the mysteries and magnetism of our closest celestial neighbor, the Moon.
The Moon has been a source of wonder for all of human history. It has been a muse for poetry, art, and epic stories. As people studied and recorded the patterns of the Moon’s movements, they discovered that it was much more than a mysterious light in our sky.
Join us as we come together to experience a total lunar eclipse—the first visible to us in its entirely since 2015!—as well as premiere a brand new sky show, Imagine the Moon, which takes a closer look at the Earth’s relationship with our little orbiting satellite!
Beginning December 2018
Art installation featuring Moon by UK artist Luke Jerram
January 18, 2019
Imagine the Moon sky show premiere
January 20, 2019
Lunar Eclipse Observing Event
Chicago: A City of Stargazers
Chicago has long been a city of stargazers. And one way or another, all astronomical roads in Chicago have led to the Adler since it became the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere in 1930. Here are a few stories, objects, and documents from our collections that remind us how the Adler has helped Chicagoans come together to explore the sky through the decades.
THE OLDEST ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY IN AMERICA
In 1862, a group of prominent citizens founded the Chicago Astronomical Society (CAS), with the aim of raising the cultural and scientific reputation of the city. CAS is the oldest astronomical society in America. It was responsible for the establishment of the Dearborn Observatory at the old University of Chicago in the 1860s. The observatory hosted the Dearborn refractor, at the time the largest telescope in the world, now an iconic instrument that you can see on display in our Telescopes exhibition. Philip Fox, the Adler Planetarium’s first director, was also the secretary of the CAS. He laid the groundwork for an enduring relationship between the two institutions. CAS carries out its mission of promoting public engagement with astronomy through lectures, observing events, etc., and to this day has held regular meetings at the Adler.
’SCOPES IN THE CITY…IN THE 1930S!
In the 1930s, a movement known as Amateur Telescope Making started to take shape in the United States. Amateurs all over the country—including here in Chicago—formed groups and associations devoted to the making of telescopes. Philip Fox invited the local amateur telescope makers to use the Adler’s premises, which they keenly accepted. One of the leading figures among these amateurs was William S. Buttles (1898-1940), who, together with his wife Lois, steered a group called Astrolab. Buttles collaborated with other Astrolab members in designing a portable reflecting telescope called the Polar Bowl. Several of these telescopes were used in a “Portable Observatory” that took astronomy to schools, community groups, and several organizations—similar to what Adler does today with ’Scopes in the City.
SPACE AGE STARGAZERS
In 1956, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory launched Operation Moonwatch with the aim of tracking artificial satellites. Many volunteers across America set out to watch the skies with telescopes specifically designed for this purpose. The program gained momentum after the launch of Sputnik I by the Soviet Union in October 1957, becoming emblematic of the Cold War and the Space Race. But above all, it led many people to engage with astronomy and space science. Such was the case of the CAS junior members who met at the Adler to survey the skies in search of satellites. The world has changed a lot since then, but an immense Universe is still out there to explore, and the Adler is sure to keep on bringing people together to do just that.
Above: Junior members of CAS observing at the Adler’s rooftop in the context of Operation Moonwatch, c. 1957 (Adler Archives)
Just How Dark is the Night?
Changes are coming to Chicago’s nights. The city is replacing streetlights with a new generation of lighting. These new lights will change how our neighborhoods look and how we view the sky. Will new lighting worsen light pollution? How can we help keep the stars visible for Chicago? Learn how the Adler Planetarium is helping measure changes and engage people across the city as they look up.
Just how dark is the night? That’s the question motivating two groups of students in the Adler’s Teen Programs. The high schoolers of Youth Organization for Lights Out (YOLO) at World Language High School (WLHS) and Air Force Academy (AFA) are approaching this question with their feet firmly rooted in their community, measuring the brightness of the night sky in the streets and parks of Little Village and Armour Square neighborhoods. Students in the Far Horizons NITELITE program, however, are taking to the skies: they intend to take an image of every streetlight and every house light in Chicago… from 20 miles up! These two groups of students have an interest in light pollution, and in particular an interest in reducing light pollution! But the first thing to do in confronting an issue is understanding it.
YOLO motivates and empowers teens by exposing them to in-depth knowledge about light pollution in the classroom. They become environmental activists within their own community while earning service-learning hours towards their high school graduation requirement. They learn to collect and analyze sky brightness data using luminance measurement devices, Sky Quality Meters (SQMs), and a smartphone app, Loss of the Night, that allows citizen scientists to be a part of the worldwide understanding of light pollution. To get a taste of what a dark sky is like, the teens attend a field trip to the nearest national lakeshore, Indiana Dunes. For many, this is the first time they’ve seen a starry night sky. They are surprised to view their own readings and compare the difference between city night sky and national park night sky quantitatively. Through this scientific encounter, they are connected through an emotional experience of what a dark night sky could look like back home!
As their neighborhoods transition streetlights from high-pressure sodium (HPS) to light-emitting diode (LED), some of the students have noticed the difference in the night sky in their own neighborhood. Their knowledge of light pollution has made them aware of the city changing light fixtures on the West and South side neighborhoods. Their advocacy has allowed them to understand that, as YOLO participant Jennifer Rubio says, “shielding light posts also needs to happen.”
While the students of YOLO are measuring how much light bounces back from the sky, students in the Far Horizons program are embarking on an adventure to measure how much light is streaming up from Chicago.
These teen volunteers come from all over the city, many having “graduated” from other Adler programs. Far Horizons is the Adler Planetarium’s authentic, hands-on science exploration program. Working closely with Adler staff and volunteer mentors, a group of four Illinois Space Grant Consortium undergraduate interns are designing and planning the Far Horizons NITELITE research mission on high altitude balloons.
Launched from the far western suburbs, the NITELITE mission will float high above nighttime Chicago while its sensitive cameras snap thousands of images. From a vantage point 90,000 feet above Chicago, each image will take in a large swath of the city. In the extreme cold (-50F!) cameras can break and electronics can malfunction. If the winds are wrong the whole balloon may come down in Lake Michigan! And to get sharp images the balloon has to be rock steady, neither ascending nor descending. Everything has to go just right for this to work. Since last year the Far Horizons students have been busy designing and testing equipment, figuring out how to make it all work flawlessly. The result will be the most detailed map of light pollution ever made of the Chicagoland area. Better shielding can direct more light down instead of into the sky. However, the whiter light from LEDs can obscure the stars due to light scattering in the atmosphere. Mapping the lights from above will allow the team to show changes in brightness and color of lighting.
So next time the Sun sets and Chicago’s street lights turn on, spare a thought for Adler’s teen programs. Whether in the neighborhoods of Chicago or from the skies above, Adler teens, college students, and astronomers are working together to make a difference in how we view our city and how well we understand the important problem of light pollution. And as they are, they are learning new things about themselves and how they can change the world!
20,000 Leagues Under the Stars
A year ago, an incredibly common thing happened. A large meteor entered our atmosphere over the Midwest, exploded, and rained down hundreds of meteorites into Lake Michigan. Thousands of meteorites fall to Earth every year; this on paper isn’t all that astounding. What’s even more common is that it landed in water. About 71 percent of Earth is covered in water, so it makes sense a large majority of these meteorite falls would land there. However, this seemingly ordinary event has fueled something truly extraordinary. For the first time ever, teens from the Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum, and Shedd Aquarium are working together to embark on a student-centered, systematic, underwater meteorite hunt dubbed The Aquarius Project. These Chicago teens, and the scientists from each institution, are all working together to detect and recover these submerged space rocks.
You want to inspire a teen? Ask them to lead the charge on an unprecedented, underwater cosmic treasure hunt. At our project kickoff in November, a student asked NASA scientist Marc Fries, “Well, what have you all done before when this happens?” His only answer was, “We haven’t done this before.” When a teen hears a scientist admit to not knowing something, that teen realizes his or her own power to discover something new about the Universe.
The Aquarius Project’s teen-authored, sled design challenge has been shared with more than 450 students from across Chicago at community maker fairs and after school hack events, internationally at the 2017 Mozilla Festival in London, and across the internet through the online design education website of The Chicago Architecture Foundation Discover Design.
Nearly 50 teens from these institutions are currently collaborating digitally to improve on the initial retrieval designs. They are engineering environmental sensors, a magnetic bilge pump retrieval sled mount, and an outfitted meteorite retrieval underwater ROV (an underwater robot!).
This summer, The Aquarius Project will put their ideas to the test.
Behind the Scenes: Kavli Fulldome Lecture Series
On May 9, 2018, Dr. Daniel P. Schrag, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at Harvard University, was a guest lecturer as part of our Kavli Fulldome Lecture Series.
Dr. Schrag discussed the increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere due to burning coal, oil, and gas, as well as how it represents an unprecedented experiment on planet Earth. Hear more about this planetary experiment from Dr. Schrag in this behind-the-scenes video!
#LookUp and Lend a Hand
Light pollution is a problem that affects 99 percent of the U.S. population in some way; and two-thirds of us cannot see the Milky Way in our night skies. Light pollution has been shown to affect human health, wildlife, and ecosystems; and billions of dollars are wasted each year as our lights are pointed upward.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “What can I do to help?” In addition to changes suggested by the International Dark Sky Association, darksky.org, the truth is that you can play a substantial role from anywhere! Two citizen-science projects are currently collecting data from people all around the world to help researchers characterize our light pollution problems. All you need is a computer or smartphone.
Globe at Night is a program of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Citizen scientists observe stars in particular constellations during specific weeks throughout the year and submit their observations. Participating in Globe at Night is a fantastic reason to learn your constellations and help with scientific research at the same time! You can do your observations from home, in your town, or anywhere you travel. The observation periods during late spring and summer are May 5–14, June 4–13, July 4–13, and August 2–11, 2018. For more information, visit globeatnight.org.
The goal of the Loss of the Night (LoN) project is to track changes in sky brightness, especially in urban areas. The LoN smartphone app allows users to estimate how many stars they can see in the sky, and, by extension, that information can be used to determine how bright the night sky is. The app also guides you where to look in the sky. The day after you’ve made an observation, you can see your information at myskyatnight.com. You can make as many observations as you want all throughout the year. Loss of the Night is available for Android and iOS devices.
Do you have an enthusiastic student or Girl or Boy Scout looking for service learning, community service, school club, or science fair project ideas? Some project ideas could include characterizing the light pollution around your school, raising money for new shielded lights in a nearby park, or starting a discussion with local community leaders about light pollution and potential solutions. The Adler Planetarium encourages everyone—students and adults—to get involved!
Vacation or Staycation: Big Savings on Chicago’s World-Class Attractions!
With a Chicago CityPASS, visitors skip main-entrance ticket lines and save more than 51 percent on combined general admission to the Windy City’s top attractions: the Adler Planetarium or Art Institute; Shedd Aquarium; Field Museum; Skydeck Chicago Fast Pass; and Museum of Science and Industry or 360 CHICAGO Fast Pass!
Friends and family coming into town? Encourage them to purchase a CityPASS to take advantage of these savings. Or be a tourist in your own city and enjoy some of the world’s best cultural institutions right in your own backyard!
Adler Skywatch: October 2018
Watching the skies as they change—from day to night, from season to season—is a pastime as old as civilization. It’s even more fun when you know something about what you’re watching. Here are a few sky highlights you can see for yourself in the month of October 2018.
The planet Mars is the brightest readily visible planet in the southern evening skies this month. Look for it in early-evening twilight about 20 degrees above the south-southeast horizon; about 30 degrees high in the south around mid-evening; and low in the southwest around midnight. How much is 20 or 30 degrees in the sky? Make a fist, and hold it out at arm’s length toward the sky. Close one eye, and align your extended fist with your open eye. The width of your fist covers roughly ten degrees of sky. Two fist-widths equal roughly 20 degrees; three, roughly 30 degrees.
The planet Saturn can be spotted about 35 degrees to the right of Mars. Saturn is not quite as bright as Mars, but it’s still brighter than the stars nearby it. Saturn appears just above the top of the “Teapot”—an asterism in the constellation Sagittarius that’s shaped like an angular teapot. Saturn appears about 25 degrees above the south-southwest horizon in the early-evening twilight, and it sets in the southwest not long after twilight ends.
The planet Jupiter is brighter than either Mars or Saturn this month. However, it’s visible only briefly after sunset the first few evenings of the month, very low in the west-southwest sky. By mid-month Jupiter gets quite low in the sky and is difficult to view in evening twilight.
Seeing a bright planet near the Moon is always a great sight. If you have a clear view to the southwest horizon, look for Jupiter the evening of the 11th, when it appears just below a very slim waxing crescent Moon. The evening of the 14th, Saturn appears near the dark edge of a (wider) waxing crescent Moon. And, the evenings of the 17th and 18th, the planet Mars appears near a waxing gibbous Moon.
Last Quarter Moon: October 2
New Moon: October 8
First Quarter Moon: October 16
Full Moon: October 24
**Please note: these descriptions are for the Chicago area, using Central Daylight time.
Adler Staff Star: Meet Lynette
Manager of Program Development; Innovator
What do you enjoy the most about working at the Adler?
I love the creative nature of my job—figuring out ways to make space science engaging and relevant for all audiences. I also love that the Adler is truly a community of explorers. Of course, our astronomers are always exploring our universe, and we invite visitors to explore space with us both inside the museum and through our various outreach programs. But staff are also empowered to explore—new ways of sharing stories, creating experiences, rethinking systems and procedures, and brainstorming ideas of all sorts.
What is your favorite Adler program?
Any program that I’m excited to create and guests are excited to experience. I’m fortunate to work with passionate colleagues, and we have fun developing physical games and activities, science experiments that can lead to many different discoveries, interesting ways of telling stories, and hands-on experiences to help make the vastness of space a little more reachable. So it’s tough to pick a favorite program!
What does the Adler’s mission mean to you?
We strive to create experiences and programs and exhibits that spark curiosity, invite participation, and inspire exploration. Hopefully, this means that visitors will see and experience things at the Adler that they won’t see or experience at home or in school or even at other museums. We truly see ourselves and our guests as being together on an exciting journey of learning and discovery.
What do you like to do outside of the Adler?
I’m a cultural fun-haver. I enjoying traveling and experiencing new places, visiting other museums, attending theater, dance, and arts events, and—especially since I’m still relatively new to the city—exploring Chicago.
Name one fun fact about yourself!
Although I always knew I was destined to be an educator, I like to say that while growing up I wanted to be 5 things that begin with the letter ‘A.’ Seeing the movie Space Camp as a kid—at about the same time I visited my first space museum—made me want to be an Astronaut. Working at the Adler comes pretty close. (Can you guess the other 4?)
Adler Staff Star: Meet Michelle
Director of Public Observing
Why do you love working at the Adler?
I am surrounded by amazing, enthusiastic colleagues, our programs are fun and innovative, and our visitors are the best because they are as geeked-out about science as we are! Who wouldn’t want to work here?
What is the most memorable thing you have done during your time at the Adler?
Watching a total solar eclipse from the deck of a ship in the Black Sea in 1999, along with about 150 other Adler members and others who came with the Adler group. It was an incredible experience!
Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?
If you try to think of the strangest or most amazing place you can come up with, there’s probably a place in the Universe that is even stranger and more amazing!
What is the most mind-boggling fact about space you know?
The water that you drink is made of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. The atoms of hydrogen you are drinking were made in the Big Bang. The oxygen was made inside a star.
What do you like do to outside the Adler?
I love to garden and cook!