In Arizona, the sun is hard to ignore, especially in the summer — but how much do you really know about it?
This Saturday, July 14, the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is holding its annual Summer Science Saturday, Science for Everyone, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and this year’s subject is the sun.
This free event, which the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory has put on since the 1970s, is meant to help share the work it does with the community, said Maria Schuchardt, program coordinator at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
“There will be displays up in the atrium area and then there will be a ton of outreach activities,” Schuchardt said. “We say they’re for kids, but a lot of adults go through and talk to the people who have brought activities also.”
Starting at 10 a.m., there will be hands-on activities based around the sun, like computer modeling with Texas Instruments and the making of solar beads with the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, as well as informational exhibits.
“This year we expanded the people that we invited to do activities, because the sun affects everything,” Schuchardt said. “The Tree Ring Lab will be here, and we have critters coming over from the Poison Control Center.”
The event is also showcasing the upcoming launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Spacecraft, which will be launched between Aug. 4 and Aug. 19.
At 11 a.m. UA professor Joe Giacalone, a co-investigator of an instrument on the mission, will give a talk about the probe, which will be the first to “touch” the sun.
“It is a mission devoted to the study of the sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere of the sun, and is going to explore questions having to do with why the solar corona is so hot, how the solar wind is accelerated, how it’s heated and where the solar wind comes from,” Giacalone said.
The instrument Giacalone works with measures high energy charge particles, and Giacalone will help the team interpret the observations. Another member of the LPL faculty, Kristopher Klien, is working on the mission as well, with a different instrument.
“The part of the sun the solar probe is going to explore is mostly invisible to us, but is nevertheless very real,” Giacalone said. “It can have very important consequences. Solar storms can cause things like power outages on the ground. You can have communication failures, and in today’s world, where we’re relying more and more on technology, these effects from the unseen sun … are very important.”
After the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory’s open house event ends at 2 p.m., the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium will hold a special screening of the planetarium show “Sunstruck.” The show focuses on the sun and other stars, and the cost is $8 for adults and $6 for children, seniors and anyone with student or military ID.
The goal of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is to bring the solar system down to earth, Schuchardt said, whether that’s with data and probes or outreach activities.
“You never know when you’re going to spark somebody,” Schuchardt said. “They’re going to come and interact with someone and they’re going to be lit up. … People can come and bring their questions and then get them answered. I like providing the opportunity for people to come and explore.”