The sun has fully flipped upside down! It’s true! Believe it or not, this interesting phenomenon happens about every 11 years. This cycle is what we call the magnetic reversal of the sun’s poles. According to NASA it has officially happened and is quite remarkable. The Sun’s north and south poles complete a swap of negative and positive charges to reach the halfway mark of our current solar cycle 24. When this happens the
sun’s polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. The magnetic fields now begin their next cycle which will end in another reversal after a 22 year long process. The Earth flips its magnetic field too, but only about every 300,000 years or so.

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Arizona Science Center is excited to have the opportunity to screen the film “Girl Rising” on Jan. 25 which highlights the strength of the human spirit and the power that education has to transform societies.

The film chronicles the stories of nine girls from around the world including Shokha in Cambodia, Wadley in Haiti, Suma in Nepal, Yasmin in Egypt, Azmera in Ethiopia, Ruksana in India, Senna in Peru, Mariama in Sierra Leone, and Amina in Afghanistan.

Although women and education are two popular words in today’s society, there are many strides that still need to be taken. According to EFA Global Monitoring Report, there are 65 million girls out of school globally.

This film has sparked a grassroots global action campaign for girls’ education, powered by people from around the world who advocate for equality. Join us for this film and you may feel inspired to spread the message across your community. Reserve your seat now!

What does girls’ education mean to you?

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Some say patience is a virtue and according to NASA it’s true. Finally, after eight years of observation, NASA’s Lunar Impact Monitoring Program captured video of the brightest meteor impact ever to hit the moon. Scientists say the March 17 St. Patrick’s Day flash of light was as bright as a 4th magnitude star lasting about one second. The moon took the blow from a space boulder travelling 56,000 mph packing the force of 5 tons of dynamite. The blast hit in the Sea of Rains (Mare Imbrium) not far from the well-known crater Copernicus.

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The Adults’ Night Out series, “Art360,” continues in January with artist Chelsea Davis. See our interview with her below.

Q: How would you describe your art?
A: I always have a difficult time explaining the pieces I’ve done because I rarely go into them with a plan, and if I do have a plan, it usually goes out the window pretty quickly. The best way I can describe my artwork, would be to say that it’s purely emotional and visual. I’ll start out with a few colors and shapes that I find visually appealing, then let my subconscious take over. It’s almost like being in a dream state, where you’re not really thinking, just doing. I find that the pieces I enjoy the most were the ones that I didn’t push myself too much to make a certain way. A lot of what I do will come from a place of visual and emotional stimulation without a lot of conscious effort to get a certain point across. It can be intimidating to read what other artists say about their work because they usually have something tangible to tie their pieces to, whether it’s a story or an emotion about life events that they’re trying to evoke. I don’t usually have a story about my pieces; they come from a place where words stop being an adequate way to describe what I’m trying to get out.

Q: Where does your greatest inspiration come from?
A: In my life I’ve had so many influences that helped push me to make new artwork and try different things, and it’s difficult to pinpoint any one thing that sticks out as being a big inspiration. I’m a very visual person. Say something to me and it turns into a movie in my mind.  Certain images or colors or textures will pop out at me and a flood of ideas will come. Music definitely plays a part in the creative process for me as well.

Q: Do you think that science influences your work at all? If so, how?
A: I’m a big fan of the scientific process, and pride myself of being a truth seeker. Science is such an important part of our lives, it gives us access to knowledge that inspires as well as educates. I think it would be hard to find a creative person in this world who wasn’t inspired by science in some way.

Q: Do you think that science will continue to influence your work in the future and in what ways?
A: Just as science is ever evolving as it discovers new questions and new truths, I also continue to grow, absorb, and process things around me in search of truth. That’s what life is about right? Reading about new discoveries or new facts about old discoveries is always inspiring. We live in such an amazing world!

Q: How do you think that having your art displayed on such a large surface like the Dorrance Planetarium dome will influence your work and the viewer’s perception of your work?
A: I’ve been told that my artwork has a lot of movement and layers, so seeing these pieces blown up and animated will most definitely amplify that aspect. I never know what to expect when people look at something I’ve created, but I hope they enjoy it.

Visit Arizona Science Center, January 3 to meet Chelsea Davis and explore her work in a unique and immersive experience as it comes to life on the dome of the Dorrance Planetarium!

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The Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. (part of the annual Rose Bowl) is a tradition of the New Year. This year, NASA’s emeritus space shuttle Endeavour will be the leading feature on a flower-shielded float as part of the 125th Rose Parade. The float is made-up of iconic Los Angeles Landmarks, with the Endeavour leading the way. The retired space shuttle is housed at the California Science Center and within its first year on public display, it drew more than 2.7 million visitors.

Along with the Endeavor, parade viewers will also see golden stars from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Universal Studios’ Globe Fountain and many more iconic symbols. The theme for this year’s parade is “Dreams Come True” which encompasses the celebration of innovation, imagination and creativity. The Endeavor, although impressive, may not be the only space themed float spotted in the parade. In the past there have been several space themed floats including South Pasadena’s “Intergalactic Vacation,” and Ronald McDonald House’s orbiter among others. It isn’t difficult to see that science has an important role in this year’s parade theme.

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If you come across a reindeer in the summer, you may notice its eyes are golden, however, if you meet the same reindeer in the winter you would notice its eyes changed to a winter blue. Why?

Neuroscientist Glen Jeffery investigated a collection of reindeer eyes from the Arctic and what he found was an astonishing discovery. The retina, located on the back of reindeer eyes, contains light-sensitive cells. The light that is reflected from reindeer eyes is related to the spacing of collagen fibers in the reflective layer so in the winter the pressure inside the eye increases allowing the collagen to compress the fibers together to allow the reindeer to capture more light during the dark winter months in the Arctic. The reduction of space between the fibers causes the retina to reflect bluer light. In the summer, since the Arctic has continual sunlight, reindeer are able to reflect more light from their retina, making the retina appear gold.

So far, Arctic reindeer are the only mammals discovered to have changes to their retina due to seasonal changes of light. Scientists are now researching whether or not the changes to their retina has an effect on their ability to see ultraviolet light.

Learn more about animals and their winter climates at Arizona Science Center’s Snow Week, now through January 1!

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It’s not every day your favorite song helps scientists protect planet earth. Now cutting-edge technology is listening to tunes and talk radio with a telescope to help clear catastrophic collisions in space.

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Although it may seem like winter started back in November, the first day of winter is actually December 21!

The arrival of winter (and all seasons) is a result of Earth tilting 23.5 degrees on its spin axis together with the 365 day orbit around the sun. When the North Pole is tilted towards the sun, this is summer for the North Pole and when the North Pole is tilted away from the sun, this is winter for the North Pole.

December 21 is also the winter solstice. On this day, daylight is at its shortest for the year in the Northern Hemisphere. This is why ancient civilizations built calendars around sunlight, so that they could determine when to harvest.

Learn more about winter at Arizona Science Center’s Snow Week, December 26-January 1.

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The Dorrance Planetarium first opened its doors in April of 1997.  Since those first days, nearly 2 million people have learned about the laws of nature that govern the cosmos and witnessed the beauty of the universe under our planetarium dome.

From the beginning, the Dorrance Planetarium has been on the cutting edge of planetarium projection technology.  In 1997, our stars were created by the Digistar II star system- a system that used computer graphics to reproduce the Universe.  Today, the Dorrance Planetarium is powered by the Digistar 5 system.  Digistar 5 allows us to travel from the inside of protons to witness the interaction of quarks out to the farthest reaches of the Universe.  In order to display our stunning visuals, we have two Sony SXRD projectors that, combined, put over sixteen million pixels on the dome.  The dome itself is sixty feet in diameter and engineered in such a way that the seams for the panels are invisible which allows us to maintain a fully immersive illusion created by the Digistar system.  Our dome was the first of its kind installed in the world at a science center or museum.

By programming our Digistar 5 system and creating original imagery with other computer software packages, we have the ability to produce our own planetarium shows.  In the past year, our team has created Treehouse Adventures, Dateline Mars, Journey to the Edge of the Universe, and Attack of the Killer Space Rocks.  In August, we won a Best of Show award at an international planetarium conference for our original content.  Currently, we have started work on our newest production, Planet Hunters, which will open in August 2014.

Having upgraded technology is important. However, the most important piece of the planetarium is the show presenter.  Our philosophy is to have a presenter interact with guests in each show in order to answer questions and present the latest astronomical news.  We are fortunate enough to have some of the best presenters in the planetarium field.  The Dorrance Planetarium presenter makes every show a personal experience for our guests.

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Break out the hot chocolate and winter scarves, it’s meteor watching season! The Geminids Meteor shower officially started out with a bang when a bolide crashed through the skies of Tucson late Tuesday night, and while that event may not be related (science takes time, people!) the Geminids have started flying through the skies. Meteor showers usually occur when planet Earth passes through a debris field left over by a passing comet’s tail. But the Geminids aren’t caused by a comet; they are asteroids shooting off rocky debris like a cosmic Pez dispenser!

Peaking on the 13th and 14th this December, the Geminids typically produce around 130 Meteors per hour, painting yellow streaks among the stars as they fall. This year, however, the Moon will be 91% full, so much of the show will be washed out by our Moon’s glare.

The culprit for this shower is 3200 Phaethon (pronounced Fay-a-thon) and this rock’s a tick over three miles wide. An Apollo-type asteroid, Phaethon dips in closer to the Sun than Mercury (reaching more than a thousand degrees Fahrenheit!) and then pops back at around 2.4 Astronomical Units, or 223 million miles from the Sun, spewing out space rocks called Meteoroids along its journey.

Long, cold (and hot!) years can pass while these Meteoroids wander through space seemingly alone until one day the great blue Earth happens to cross their orbit. The space rocks, called Meteors once in Earth’s atmosphere, crash through the atmosphere at around 22 miles per second – speeds so fast the gasses that comprise the atmosphere compress so rapidly that the air around the Meteor heats up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, often completely vaporizing the rock in our skies.

These streaks of light, sometimes called shooting stars, hit the Earth all the time! In fact, roughly 100 tons of space debris hit the Earth every single day! Depending on the composition of the rock, Meteors can streak in brilliant yellows, blues, greens, or reds – festive and just in time for the holiday season, or as we call it in the Dorrance Planetarium: Killer Space Rock season!

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