Monday, July 20, 2015


In celebration of New Horizon's successful fly-by of Pluto, the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (a partner with NASA in sending the ship out) hosted a Plutopalooza. We visited in the morning and had a great time.

Ready to travel!

Celebratory sign with unfortunate flash flare

They had plenty of crafts and other fun activities for kids, including making a ultraviolet light-detecting bracelet and a spectrometer.

L sad to show her passport rather than her bracelet

Working on spectrometers

Almost done!

The hall was brimming with activity. We managed to get a postcard-perfect shot at the photo op spot.

Part of the hall

J ready to be a tourist

L not so much

We found one of several models of the New Horizons spacecraft and admired its shiny goldenness.

New Horizon at 1:25 ratio

In another the kids had their faces painted. Choosing the design and colors was part of the fun. J and L both picked out the space craft but different views (and color schemes).

Face Painting!

J gets drawn on

Side view of the craft

L's turn

Top view of craft

To show even more love for Pluto, J colored in a necklace to imitate the heart-shaped features on the new, more accurate photo of Pluto.

J works from a picture of the planet

A ball area represented the various sizes of various objects in the Kuiper Belt, the area of our solar system beyond Uranus and Neptune full of rocky and icy objects, much like the asteroid belt.

Objects in the belt

Objects in motion

We went to an hour-long presentation by some of the scientists who worked on New Horizon, including a graduate student who designed the dust collector. J was interested but L was not. The biggest surprise for me was the appearance of Brian May. He's a guitarist for the rock band Queen and an astrophysicist! He wrote that We Will Rock You song which has a whole new meaning considering he studies non-terrestrial stones.


Rocker who is into space rocks

My other surprise from the presentations was the insistence that Pluto is a planet and not a dwarf planet. They asked how many planets are in the solar system, and their correct answer was "hundreds." So the issue is still controversial!

L was worn out after the presentation, so we went off to lunch at Chick-fil-A, a happy end to a fun and informative morning.

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