Space Week 2016 at MVC

Posted on behalf of Robert Stallmann.

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Early in October, Mountain View College briefly became the hub of astrophysics education in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The college presented a series of educational events called Space Week 2016, organized by Shahnaz Sokhansanj, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and the MVC Astrophysics Club. This event was timed to coincide with World Space Week, established by the United Nations in 1999. The week begins each year on or about 4 October, the anniversary of the 1957 launch of Sputnik 1, the first human-made satellite.

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At MVC, Space Week 2016 began on Tuesday 4 October with a presentation by MVC physics students, “Why Doesn’t the Moon Fall Down?” This presentation was followed by an outdoor workshop during which Dr. Boudreaux and her students from Trini Garza Early College High School constructed rockets, sundials, and star finders.

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On Wednesday, MVC physics and astronomy students led another presentation, “Why the Earth is a Magnet.” Once again, this presentation was followed up with outdoor activities, wherein Trini Garza High School students, led by Garza’s Mr. Smith, made rockets, conducted solar observations, and generated electricity using Earth’s magnetic field. The day also marked the opening of the Out of This World Art Show in the Kiva Gallery, featuring the work of Prof. James Behan’s students.

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On Thursday, Space Week activities resumed in the evening, with a presentation by Prof. Shahnaz Sokhansanj called “Why Do We Have Seasons?” The next presentation, given by Prof. Jonathan York, focused on the detrimental effect of urban light pollution on stargazing. Finally, at 6:00 PM, Levent Gurdemir gave a presentation on the constellations and the night sky. Mr. Gurdermir is director of the UT Arlington Planetarium, and is also a doctoral student in physics and astronomy at UTA.

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The outdoor Star Party began immediately after Mr. Gurdemir’s presentation. At the Star Party, students and community members of all ages examined various planets and the moon, using telescopes set up by MVC Professors Jonathan York and Jay Bhalerao; and by Ian Grey, an MVC physics student and science museum educator. Meanwhile, Dr. Victor Soto and his students gave an outdoor musical performance, “Spacing Out with Music Under the Stars.”

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Space Week concluded on Friday with a public lecture in the Treetop Lounge by Richard Bonde, a doctoral student in space physics at UT Arlington. Mr. Bonde’s presentation focused on sunspots, solar flares, and other solar phenomena, and their effect on the Earth’s magnetic field—including visible effects such as the aurora borealis or “northern lights.”

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