On the shoulders of giants

20161119_193757From November 18-20, the Friends of Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium hosted their third weekend of programming for the 2016-17 school year titled, “On the Shoulders of Giants”.  The weekend was dedicated to the most notable astronomers in the 20th Century, and their contributions to science.  As per usual the weekend featured a stellar lineup of digital shows in addition to an interactive panel discussion highlighting scientists and astronomers who laid the groundwork for modern astronomy and space exploration. 

On Friday November 18, there were viewings of the full dome shows Two Small Pieces of Glass and Cosmos: Harmony of Worlds.  On Saturday November 19, there was a viewing of the full dome show Natural Selection followed by a panel discussion titled, “On the Shoulders of Giants”.  On Sunday November 20, there were showings of the full dome shows Astronaut, and Accidental Astronauts.

Saturday’s discussion featured three very notable and knowledgeable speakers in the world of astronomy.  The discussion was started by Dr. Seth-Ann Howard who previously gave a talk at a Friends’ weekend titled, “4000 Years of Women in Science”.  She was followed by retired NASA scientist Steven Dick, and David DaVorkin who serves as a curator at the Smithsonian National Air & Space museum.  The panel’s discussion involved a host of visual images and simulations and was a “Who’s Who” of the astronomy world highlighting its most notable pioneers and their contributions to the field.  Some of the names included:

·         Cecelia Payne- Discovered what stars are comprised of in terms of chemistry;

·         Bertil Linblad- Discovered how the Milky Way rotates;

·         Karly Jansky- Detected radio signals from the Milky Way;

·         Joceylyn Bell- Discovered Pulsars;

·         Percival Lowell- Discovered the canals on Mars and;

·         George Elory Hale- Built the largest telescopes of his time.

20161119_210154Some of the more well-known names often used in entertainment world’s references to science were also mentioned.  Albert Einstein is frequently referred to in Science Fiction media for his Law of Relativity, and has been portrayed in various TV shows and movies.  Edwin Hubble had a telescope named after him.  Carl Sagan who is most known the TV series Cosmos, was also a writer (Contact which was adapted into a film), in addition to his research in astronomy, cosmology, astrophysics and astrobiology.  The interactive discussion was followed by a question and answer session from the audience.

The Friends will host special events at the David M. Brown Planetarium one weekend every month until the end of the school year. Each weekend will be geared towards increasing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education/awareness for all ages and will feature a specific theme.  For more information, visit the Friends’ website.  The theme for December’s weekend will be, “Finding the Christmas Star”.