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Space Weather Exhibit as seen through a plasma sphere

A plasma sphere distorts this view of the Space Weather Exhibit.

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Images courtesy & © Space Science Institute.

The violent beauty of solar storms and their potentially serious effects on Earth’s environment and its economy are the central themes of the Space Weather Center, a major traveling exhibit that will make its debut at the Kitt Peak Visitor Center with a ribbon-cutting reception on Tuesday, October 8, at 5:30 p.m.

Local media are invited to attend this kick-off event, and to share in the excitement of the simultaneous opening night of a second telescope dome for nightly public programs on Kitt Peak. This dual event includes the rare opportunity for local television stations to broadcast live from Kitt Peak during the early evening news. Please contact Douglas Isbell with an expression of interest as soon as possible to reserve the best broadcast sites.

The Space Weather Center’s hands-on activities and colorful video displays are designed to bring the awesome power of solar flares and huge eruptions called Coronal Mass Ejections down to a scale that can be appreciated by all ages. The official public opening of this special touring exhibit is Wednesday, October 9. The exhibit will occupy the Kitt Peak Visitor Center through early January 2003, with special admissions prices of $4.00 for adults and $2.50 for children, with free admission for kids under the age of 5.

“Our telescopes on Kitt Peak in Arizona and on Sacramento Peak in New Mexico provide crucial data for space weather forecasting every day, so we are thrilled that the Kitt Peak Visitor Center is hosting the Space Weather Center,” says Steve Keil, director of the Tucson-based National Solar Observatory.

Ongoing public interest in the 20-person Nightly Observing Program on Kitt Peak has spurred the creation of a second site for this popular three-hour program, which is now hosted only at the small observatory attached to the Visitor Center. The expansion of this nightly paid program will be housed in one of the earliest domes built on Kitt Peak. It began operations in 1963 with a 16-inch telescope optimized to measure the brightness of stars.

“This venerable dome is situated on one of the most scenic spots on Kitt Peak, with the best sky-observing conditions on the mountain, so it is sure to be popular with our many public visitors,” says Kitt Peak National Observatory Director Richard Green. “Participants in the Nightly Observing Program get a real flavor for the scientific inspiration that flows from being on a dark mountain site with the beauty of the night sky stretching in every direction.”

Tucson Mayor Robert Walkup is scheduled to attend the October 8 event, along with representatives of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and a group of school children from the nation who wrote competitively selected essays on the best stellar targets for the new public program telescope to observe on its first night.

The Space Weather Center was developed by the Space Science Institute, Boulder, CO, in partnership with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. Major funding was provided by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

For more information on the exhibit, see:

http://www.spacescience.org/SWOP/1.html

More information about the Nightly Observing Program is available at:

http://www.noao.edu/outreach/nop/

Images of the Sun taken by telescopes operated by the National Solar Observatory (including the world’s largest solar telescope, the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope Facility, located on Kitt Peak) are available at:

http://www.noao.edu/image_gallery/solar.html

Kitt Peak National Observatory is part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), Tucson, AZ. NOAO and the National Solar Observatory are operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc., under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.