The Museum of the Rockies (MOR) hosts the Astronomy and Aerospace day during the beginning of April every year. This year, the event fell on Sunday, April 7, and ran from 1 – 4 p.m.
Astronomy and Aerospace day at the MOR plays host to many educational outlets, and each outlet is granted a booth or table that they use to display their scientific projects. The presenters take over not only the Museum’s entrance hall, but also the lower level of the museum. In addition to the booths, guest speakers gave talks at 1 p.m. and then again at 3 p.m. The first speaker was Montana State Grant Consortium (MSGC) director Angela C. Des Jardins who currently conducts studies in Solar Astrophysics with an emphasis on student involvement. The second speaker was Jaime Waydo, a member of Google’s self-driving car team.
The main organization presenting at the Astronomy and Aerospace day was the MSGC, a funding program provided by the government for the purpose of encouraging young scientists. The MSGC presented on their research on the upcoming total solar eclipse, an extremely rare astronomical event. A total solar eclipse, which has not occurred in over 38 years, will pass over the continental Unites States on Monday, Aug. 21. For the past three years MSU students have been collaborating with schools around the state in order to create something completely new: releasing weather balloons equipped with cameras, trackers and sensors during the eclipse. The sensors will track the position of the solar eclipse’s shadow over the face of the earth and will monitor the effect that the eclipse’s cooling of the earth will have on weather patterns across the U.S.
Other contributors included representatives from the Great Falls College who showed off customizable coding projects, current MSU students demonstrating the formation of clouds within bottles and presenters from the eXtreme Gravity Institute with demonstrations of gravitational mechanics and presenters from the Montana Department of Transportation showing off two small wind tunnels. Presenters from the Science Girls demonstrated Lego based robotics and presenters from MSU’s Optical Technology Center were showing off the applications of polarized light in everyday life.
Among the MSGC booths was a group of nighttime photographers explaining their craft. They displayed their first attempts at nighttime photography side by side with their newer, more enamoring pieces. Past the photography booth, there was a table for the Space Public Outreach Team, or SPOT for short. The SPOT booth was run by advocates for the upcoming solar eclipse and for MSGC’s recent weather balloon research. The presenters were constantly pointing children towards a demo of a total solar eclipse where children were able to block the light from a lamp with a small baseball sized moon on a stick.
Also featured was the first-place Montana State Science Fair winner Felix Guggenheim alongside his project, which proved that sound could not travel within a vacuum.