Written by Kelly Herbst, Astronomy Curator for the Virginia Living Museum. Updated every two weeks, more or less.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Welcome to Mesozoic Park

Honestly, when you get right down to it, that's what eccentric billionaire John Hammond should have named his theme park.  Let's face it - not all dinosaurs lived in the Jurassic, but all dinosaurs lived in the Mesozoic

So what's up with the dinosaur talk, you ask?  Well...summer is nearly upon us.  I can't believe it, but this weekend is the unofficial start of summer (Memorial Day Weekend) and the beginning of the long crazy summer schedule we run here at the Abbitt Planetarium until Labor Day rolls around.  This summer is certain to bring three things to the Virginia Living Museum...heat, humidity, and Dinosaurs!

Indeed, as the days lengthen, the dinosaurs are moving in to the changing exhibit gallery.  We'll once again be featuring the big moving and roaring critters that have always been so popular here at the museum.  An added bonus this year...non-dinosaurs!  You might not be aware of this, but all dinosaurs lived primarily on land.  Flying reptiles, like pteranodon, we not dinosaurs.  Neither were marine reptiles like elasmosaurus and mosasaurus.  You can see all three of these "dino-buddies" at this year's exhibit.

1916 Pteranodon painting by Harder.  Courtesy Wikimedia.

Want some extra dinosaur fun?  Consider joining us overnight on June 1 for Dinosaurs!  The Camp-in!  Yes indeed, you'll get to sleep overnight in the museum and learn more about dinosaurs than you ever thought possible.  It's going to be a whole lot of fun.  To get more information or to register, call Betty or Julia at (757) 595-9135.  There are only a few spaces left available - trust me, you don't want to miss this.

The planetarium will be getting in on the dino action as well, with our featured program "Dinosaur Prophecy."  We've got a brand-new opening segment focusing on the wonders of the summer night sky, and then we investigate four fossil sites to learn how dinosaurs lived and died, and what their demise might say about the fate of humanity.  It's a pretty amazing show...especially the parts where dinosaurs thunder across the dome thanks to some amazing animations!

For those not ready to walk with dinosaurs, we've got some other options in the planetarium as well.  With this year being the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, we take you on a journey through the final days of the doomed vessel with "Night of the Titanic."  As always, "Virginia Skies" will take you on a live, guided tour of the evening skies for the day of your visit.  Rounding out the planetarium offerings through the end of June will be an all-new laser show especially for kids - "Here Come They Might Be Giants."  If your kids like the albums and videos produced by these awesome rockers, they'll be entranced by this laser show.  And if you've never experienced TMBGs kid-friendly music...don't miss this show.  You're in for a real treat.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the successful launch of the Dragon capsule currently in orbit around the Earth by private space exploration company SpaceX.  Currently America's only means of getting into low-earth orbit, we're excited to see this program moving forward.  Watch the news on May 25th, as the Dragon capsule will be attempting to link up with the International Space Station on that day.  Best of luck for a smooth docking, guys!

SpaceX's Dragon capsule launches with their Falcon 9 rocket on May 22, 2012.  Courtesy NASA.

There's a lot happening here at the museum this summer, astronomically speaking and otherwise, and I'll be posting updates as needed to keep you informed about it all.  If you're not already signed up to receive updates from my blog, you might want to do that now, as I might be running a bit off my usual every other week schedule for a while.  But right now, I've got more work to do to get ready for the dinosaurs.  See you in two weeks!

Carpe noctem,

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