Tag Archives: Battle Point Astronomical Association

Hunting the geocached solar system on Bainbridge Island

Most of us have experienced a scale model solar system. A new one with a different spin will open up May 1 on Bainbridge Island. To find the Sun and planets in this solar system, you’ll have to conduct a successful geocache hunt.

“Everybody who does it can collect the entire set of planets and custom stamps in a passport book, but the trick is, they have to go to each planet to do it,” said Erica Saint Clair, proprietor of Rosie Research, which creates fun science learning adventures for kids and families. Saint Clair also leads the BP Astro Kids education program of the Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA). It was through the latter that the idea for the geocache scaled solar system model came about.

Geocached solar system

Adventurers can explore a geocached solar system on Bainbridge Island beginning May 1. Find the treasure chest at each planet and get a stamp for your passport. Visit every planet to win cool prizes! Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

About a year ago the BP Astro Kids made solar systems on a string, but it was a challenge to create an exercise that represented both the proper sizes of planets relative to each other, as well as the scale of the distances between them at those sizes. The BPAA children’s librarian suggested just making an island-wide solar system using geocaching. Saint Clair originally laughed at the idea—thinking that’ll be easy!—then rolled up her sleeves and got to work. Now it’s about to go live. The Sun is about five feet in diameter in this solar system.

“It fits really well on the island, and it gives a really good perspective for people about the size of our solar system,” Saint Clair said.

“You can walk downtown Winslow and go through our terrestrial planets, and then Jupiter and Saturn and the other guys are a little further away,” she added. “You definitely need a car for Pluto because it’s the other end of the island.”

Geocache patch

Visit every planet on Bainbridge Island and get this cool patch. Photo: Rosie Research.

The key piece of documentation for the hunt is the solar system passport. The passport includes information about the project and interesting facts about the Sun and each planet. Most importantly, it gives the coordinates of each of these objects. Go to Bainbridge Island, plug the coordinates into a GPS device—the map app on your smart phone will do, but there are also special geocaching apps—and the search is on! At each spot geocachers with a good eye will find a hidden treasure chest with a special stamp for their passport—that’s how you’ll prove you’ve been there. Some local businesses will be handing out the passports, and some are offering prizes like ice cream or pizza for those who collect certain stamps.

“It’s not only a geocache hunt, it’s also a fun afternoon activity with treats,” Saint Clair said.

Geocachers who visit every planet can bring their passport to one of the monthly BP Astro Kids events and receive a colorful completer’s patch as the reward for their dedicated pursuit of scientific knowledge.

Saint Clair said that a goal helps motivate many kids to finish a project like this; her own daughters are the user testers for many of her projects, and it works on them! She’s hoping that the challenge of the hunt will inspire interest in the project.

Challenge of scale modeling

There are a lot of big numbers in astronomy, and Saint Clair said that’s a challenge for this sort of endeavor.

Erica Saint Clair

Erica Saint Clair presents BPAstro Kids programs for the Battle Point Astronomical Association.

“It’s really difficult to scale a model, because either the sizes are so unfathomable or the distances are so unfathomable, and to bring one into focus inherently blurs the other,” she said. She hopes that using informative passport books will help convey more information that might not work at the scale of the model.

The Battle Point Astronomical Association will hold an Astronomy Day celebration at Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. this Saturday, April 29. Saint Clair said kids and families can pick up their passports and take a solar system tour that day in preparation for the solar system geocache hunt going live on Monday.

If you’d like to support the educational efforts of Rosie Research, visit their Patreon Page and become a patron of science.


Podcast of our interview with Erica Saint Clair:

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Several club events on this week’s calendar

Use your snow day to plan your astronomy activities for the week! Four area astronomy clubs have meetings on the calendar.

The Tacoma Astronomical Society will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 7 in room 175 of Thompson Hall at the University of Puget Sound. Member John Finnian will make a presentation about the app Dark Sky Finder, including a demonstration of how it works and advice about how to get the most use value from it, particularly for stargazers who may wish to use it for finding potentially very good observing sites in the Northwest.

The Boeing Employees Astronomical Association will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, February 9 in room 201 of the Boeing “Oxbow” Fitness & Recreation Center, Bldg 9-150. The topic will be the upcoming total solar eclipse and advice about how to successfully observe it. Non-Boeing folks are welcome but must RSVP; details online.

Saturday, February 11 will be a busy day on Bainbridge Island with three events scheduled with the Battle Point Astronomical Association. The BP Astro Kids program has shows about gravity at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Following at 7:30 p.m. astronomer Dave Fong will do a Valentine’s themed show titled, “Star Stories: Twisted Tales of Love and Loss.” It’s a humorous take on Greek star lore. If the weather is good they’ll break out the telescopes for observing. It all happens at the association’s observatory and planetarium in Battle Point Park.

The Everett Astronomical Society will meet at 3 p.m. Saturday, February 11 at the Evergreen Branch of the Everett Public Library. Program topics had not been published as of this writing.

Planetaria

Check our calendar page for this week’s planetarium shows at the Pacific Science Center and the WSU planetarium, and for other upcoming astronomy events.

Up in the sky

There will be a penumbral lunar eclipse this Saturday, February 11. The eclipse will already be in progress at moonrise in Seattle, and will end a little before 7 p.m. It’s the only lunar eclipse that will be visible from North America this year. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope offer more observing highlights for the week.

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Club events highlight the week’s astro-calendar

There are several astronomy club events and a star party on the calendar for the coming week.

The Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 6 in room 175 in Thompson Hall on the University of Puget Sound campus. Program information had not been published as of this writing.

BPAAThe Battle Point Astronomical Association has a big evening of events planned for Saturday, December 10. The monthly “parent-kid date night” from BP Astro Kids will be all about stellar DNA, as participants learn about the spectral makeup of common elements and how we know what the sun is made of. They’ll also create and decorate their very own take home spectrometers to investigate everything from hydrogen emission lines to the spectrum of light bulbs at home. Two shifts of events start at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the association’s Edwin Ritchie Observatory on Bainbridge Island. Following at 7:30 p.m. BPAA puts on a planetarium show “Navigating by the Stars.” Before GPS was invented people found their way around by the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars. Blue water cruiser Frank Petrie will talk about the basics of navigating with a sextant, and why it’s harder than Hollywood would have you believe. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Astronomical observing will follow if the weather is good.

The monthly Covington Community Park star party will be held at—where else?—Covington Community Park at 6 p.m. Friday, December 9. The popular suburban star party is a joint venture between the Seattle, Tacoma, and Boeing Employees’ astronomical societies.

Futures file

You can scout out future astronomy events on our calendar. The page also features a full schedule of planetarium and stage science shows at Pacific Science Center.

Up in the sky

Uranus and Neptune can be a little difficult to find, but it will be a little easier this week because both will appear close to the Moon, Neptune on Tuesday and Uranus on Friday. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope offer more observing highlights for the week.

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Club activity and more Viking news on this week’s astro calendar

The Vikings are sailing on Oregon, and a number of astronomy clubs in the region have meetings and events this week.

Viking at Science Pub Eugene

VMMEPPMeet some of the folks involved with the Viking Mars missions in the mid-1970s at Science Pub Eugene at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, November 10 at Whirled Pies at Cozmic in Eugene, Oregon. As an 11-year-old girl Rachel Tillman saved the last remaining un-flown Viking spacecraft from the scrap heap. She later became founder and is executive director of the nonprofit organization The Viking Mars Missions Education & Preservation Project. Tillman will speak at Science Pub Eugene, along with Al Treder, who worked on Viking guidance and control; Peggy Newcomb, wife of NASA Viking engineer and author John Newcomb, who passed away in March; Virgil Young, Camera Imaging Team member at Martin Marietta Laboratories; and Dr. Clare Reimers, professor in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University.

Suggested donation for admission is $5. Science Pub Eugene is a program of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. If you can’t make this Viking Mars Mission event, it will be repeated at Science Pub Corvallis on the 14th.

Astronomy clubs

Olympic Astronomical SocietyThe Olympic Astronomical Society plans its monthly meeting for tonight (Monday, November 7) at 7:30 in room Art 103 on the campus of Olympic College in Bremerton. A look at the constellations Libra and Piscis Austrinus and a talk about the warping of time and space are included on the agenda.

beaslogo_300The Boeing Employees’ Astronomical Society will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, November 10 at the Boeing “Oxbow” Fitness Center. NASA Solar System Ambassador John McLaren will give a presentation about the latest information gained from exploring the Sun. Non-Boeing visitors are welcome but need an escort to the meeting. Contact David Ingram for more information.

BPAA logoThe Battle Point Astronomical Association on Bainbridge Island has several events planned for Saturday. Parents and budding scientists attending the BP Astro Kids program at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. November 12 will learn what caused all of those craters on the Moon, and then will build their own moons to take home. At 7:30 p.m. the club’s planetarium show will look at the possible connections between dark matter, black holes, and gravitational waves. If there weather permits there will be astronomical observing as well. It all happens at the club’s Edwin Ritchie Observatory and John Rudolph Planetarium in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge.

Seattle Astronomical SocietyThe Seattle Astronomical Society will offer a workshop about understanding telescopes at 2 p.m. Sunday, November 13 at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Experienced stargazers will discuss the basic concepts needed for choosing and using telescopes, eyepieces, and star charts. The event is open to members and non-members alike.

Futures file

You can scout out future astronomy events on our calendar. New additions to the calendar this week include the next Astronomy on Tap Seattle event, set for November 16 at Peddler Brewing Company in Ballard. By the way, there’s a nice article about the Astronomy on Tap movement in the December issue of Astronomy magazine.

Up in the sky

Neptune will appear very close to the Moon on Wednesday. The Sky This Week from Astronomy and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope have more observing highlights for the week.

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Labor Day week astronomy events

Happy Labor Day to all! There’s a little something on the astronomy calendar just about every night this week.

Focus on astrophotography

Tacoma Astronomical SocietyThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 7 in room 175 of Thompson Hall on the University of Puget Sound campus in Tacoma. The meeting topic will be DSLR photography, with four experienced shooters and two beginners sharing their tips and challenges. The club hopes to spur wider interest in the pursuit of astrophotography.

TAS will also hold one of its public nights beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday, September 10 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. The indoor program will be about the Hubble Space Telescope. Club members will be on hand with scopes for public viewing, weather permitting.

Last month for Jacobsen open houses

Theodor Jacobsen ObservatoryThe second-to-last open house of the season at the University of Washington’s Theodor Jacobsen Observatory will be held at 8 p.m. Wednesday, September 7. Recent physics and astronomy graduate Evan Davis will give a talk about exoplanets. With the recent strong evidence of a planet orbiting the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, Davis’s talk is especially relevant! Reservations are recommended.

After the September 21 open house, the outreach program will go on hiatus until March.

Astronomy clubs

beaslogo_300The Boeing Employees Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 8 at the Boeing “Oxbow” Recreation center. The topic or guest speaker was yet to be announced as of this writing. Non-Boeing guests are welcome, but should RSVP to Dave Ingram, contact info on the meeting link above.

Spokane Astronomical SocietyThe Spokane Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 9 at the Riverview Retirement Community in Spokane. The guest speaker will be Don Peckham, a member of Rose City Astronomers who has been assistant director of the club’s telescope workshop since 2005. Peckham created the String Telescope Concepts and the Tensegrity String Telescope websites. He has designed and built two truss-tube telescopes, two traditional string telescopes, and three tensegrity string telescopes.

BPAA logoSaturday will be a busy night on Bainbridge Island as the Battle Point Astronomical Association holds several events. Its BP Astro Kids programs at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. September 10 will look at comets and help kids make their own. The planetarium program at 7:30 p.m. will take a look at cool Hubble Space Telescope images you may have missed. Observing will happen, weather permitting.

Seattle Astronomical SocietyThe Seattle Astronomical Society will hold its monthly free public star parties at 8 p.m. Saturday, September 10 at two locations: Green Lake in Seattle and Paramount Park in Shoreline. The star parties are cancelled in the event of weather unfavorable for astronomical observing. Watch the SAS website for the latest.

Above and Beyond closes

MOFIt’s your last week to check out the special exhibit Above and Beyond at the Museum of Flight. The interactive traveling exhibit celebrates both the history and future of flight through a variety of immersive simulations, interactive design challenges, impactful stories of innovation, and more. This large-scale exhibition invites you to experience what it takes to make the “impossible” possible. The last day to experience it is September 10. It’s free with museum admission.

Futures file

You can scout out future astronomy events on our calendar. New additions this week include:

  • Astronaut Mike Massimino will speak at the Museum of Flight October 14
  • Author Julian Guthrie and others will talk about the Road to SpaceShipOne at the Museum of Flight October 17
  • Physicist Rainer Weiss, a key figure in gravitational wave research, will lecture at the University of Washington October 25

Up in the sky

Spot the Moon near Saturn Thursday and Mars Friday. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope have more observing highlights for the week.

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Discussion of space security is highlight of week’s calendar

Several area astronomy clubs have meetings and star parties this week, and the University of Washington hosts a symposium about space security.

Jackson School of International StudiesDoctoral candidates and junior fellows in the Space Security Initiative at the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies have been examining the prospects of various international spacefaring nations, and will present a briefing about their findings at the University this Wednesday, June 8. Seattle Astronomy is among the participant panel of journalists, space company representatives, government officials, military, economic development specialists, and other space thinkers involved in the discussion of the future of space exploration and security. We’ll report back on the discussion in a future post.

Astro club activity

Tacoma Astronomical SocietyThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 7 in room 175 of Thompson Hall on the University of Puget Sound campus. Seattle Astronomical Society member Mark de Regt will give a talk about how he moved from observing the skies from his yard to remote imaging with equipment located in the South Australia desert. He gave a similar presentation to the SAS back in March. The Tacoma group also will hold one of its free public nights beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday, June 11 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. An all-weather program about aurorae will be featured, and club members will have telescopes on hand for observing if weather permits.

BPAAThe Battle Point Astronomical Association has a full evening of events planned for Saturday, June 11. The club’s popular BP Astro Kids program will celebrate its first birthday at 5 p.m. by revisiting its first year of fun kid projects in a relaxed, science-based, crafty evening! Participants can come by any time as there is no talk, just celebrations! The club’s monthly planetarium program follows at 8:30 p.m., this time focusing on “Pluto & Some Planets.” Astronomer Steve Ruhl will examine the latest data about Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. They’ll also take a brief look at the three bright planets currently in the evening sky: Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. If the sky is clear, astronomers will be on hand with telescopes. The event is free to BPAA members, $2 donation suggested for nonmembers, $5 for families.

Olympic Astronomical Society has its monthly meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 6 in room Art 103 at Olympic College in Bremerton. As of this writing the program had not been published.

Up in the sky

As the BPAA suggests, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are all beautifully placed for viewing starting at dusk these days. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope list additional observing highlights for the week.

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Transit of Mercury highlight of the week; maybe the year

The most anticipated observing event of the year happens Monday morning, May 9, as Mercury will transit across the face of the Sun. The transit begins at 4:13 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, so it will be under way when the Sun rises in Seattle.

NASA illustration.

NASA illustration.

The weather gods are taunting Seattle astronomers, as usual. After a pretty good run of mostly clear weather, we awoke to rain on Mother’s Day morning. The forecast is for mostly cloudy cloudy skies around sunrise Monday, turning to sunny by noon, when the transit will be over. So, it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll see the transit constantly from sun-up to finish, but also looks pretty unlikely that we’ll get skunked.

There are several transit-observing events that we know about. Seattle Astronomy will be down at Seacrest Park near the West Seattle Water Taxi dock with a telescope; join us and have a look! The Seattle Astronomical Society will hold an observing event at Snoqualmie Point Park near the town of Snoqualmie. (UPDATE: The SAS event has been cancelled due to inclement weather.) There will be transit viewing and programming at the Pierce College Science Dome in Lakewood. Rose City Astronomers and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry will be observing the transit from the OMSI site in Portland. Check the links for details.

A couple of things to keep in mind about the transit. First, don’t ever, ever, ever look at the Sun without proper protection. Regular sunglasses won’t do the trick. You need special eclipse glasses. Second, Mercury is so small that you will need magnification to see it, and that means a telescope also equipped with the proper solar filters. Be safe out there!

Read our preview article about the Mercury transit.

AstronoMay continues

Pacific Science CenterAstronoMay continues at the Pacific Science Center this week. There will be two interesting lectures on Saturday, May 14. At 10 a.m. Elena Amador, a graduate student at the University of Washington, will talk about the search for water on Mars. Then at 2:30 p.m. Dr. Sandeep Singh, a planetary scientist from the Bear Fight Institute in Winthrop, will speak about Saturn’s largest moon Titan. Singh has worked on NASA’s Rosetta, Cassini, and DAWN missions.

Volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society will be on hand much of the day Saturday with solar telescopes for observing the Sun, and the center is offering planetarium shows and other astronomy-related programming throughout the week. Check their calendar for details.

PacSci Podcast about AstronoMay:

Club events

Tacoma Astronomical SocietyThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will host one of its public nights beginning at 9 p.m. this Saturday, May 14 on the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. The program will be about black holes, and there will be observing if the weather permits.

BPAAThe Battle Point Astronomical Association has several events on Saturday, May 14 at its Edwin Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. At their BPAstro Kids shows at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. youngsters will build their own planets and check them for life. Following at 8 p.m. astronomer Steve Ruhl will examine exoplanets: How we see them, what they tell us about our solar system, and how we might know if there other habitable worlds out there.

Check out our recent article and podcast about BPastro Kids:

Up in the sky

The Mercury transit is the big astronomical event of the week. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope have other observing highlights for the week.

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