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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Something's Coming...

Come on in, don't be shy, meet a guy, pull up a chair!

Okay, you know it's been a tough day when I break into show tunes.

Seriously, good things are happening around here at the Virginia Living Museum.  It's getting kind of exciting.

First of all, we're getting pretty close to being done with flood recovery!  We hope to have the lower level of the museum reopened very soon.  So watch the museum's webpage for an official announcement on that score, hopefully before the end of the year.  It's been a long, slow recovery process, and we're very excited to get the museum fully opened again.  I hear tell there will even be some new exhibits coming downstairs, which is also pretty exciting!

Naturally, this is an exciting time of year in general, with the holidays in full swing.  I have an 8-year-old daughter at home and that makes Christmas extra-special, I can tell you.  Our annual trip to Christmas Town is coming up this weekend (can't wait!), plus all the decorating and visiting and baking and whatnot the season brings.  The Virginia Living Museum is all decorated up for the season, too.  In the planetarium lobby the tree has a lovely silver and blue theme this year which I think suits us well.  And of course, holiday programming continues in the theater until the end of the year, so don't miss out on that!

Jupiter and its largest moon, Ganymede.  Courtesy STScI.

Most exciting in my book is that this Saturday is our monthly star party and Laser Light Night!  It's a special one, too.  Jupiter is just past its opposition, so the giant planet is close to the Earth and looking fabulous even in a small telescope.  Rising close to sunset and remaining visible all night, we're hoping for the clouds to part and show us a fabulous view!  Ten times larger than the Earth, Jupiter shows an amazing amount of detail with only a small amount of magnification.  Probably the most wonderful thing about viewing Jupiter is that you usually get to see a few of its moons as well - most notably the four Galilean satellites.  These four largest moons of Jupiter were first spotted by Galileo Galilei (hence the name Galilean satellites) in the early 1600s.  He called them "the Medicean stars" since at the time of his discovery of them, his bills were being paid by the prominent Medici family (Galileo was no fool!).  Later, all of the moons of Jupiter we renamed for various lovers of Zeus/Jupiter.  Today, the four largest moons of Jupiter are known as Ganymede, Callisto, Europa and Io.  It's a fair bet we'll get a glimpse of all four of them this weekend, so be sure to join us.  Remember, observing is always FREE!

An artist's conception of an eruption on Jupiter's volcanic moon, Io.  A new panoramic wallpaper will be installed in the lobby of the Abbitt Planetarium this January based on this poster.  Courtesy NASA Langley.
 In addition, we'll be celebrating the hard work of the many good people who helped raise funds for the museum's flood relief campaign during Walktober!  This dedicated group of walkers raised over $8000 and counting!  And you can help by purchasing a Walktober Flood Relief T-shirt for only $5 this Saturday during the Star Party.  To thank our walkers, we've got extra shows on the docket, and everyone is welcome.  Check out the schedule online.  Shows in the theater, whether planetarium or lasers, are $6 each, or 2 for $10.  Members always receive half off.

Many other things are coming down the pike for the remainder of the year, so I'd better get back to work!

See you in two weeks! And until then...
Carpe noctem!

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