Space Sciences

History

The Department of Space Sciences was added as a core competency in 2001 during the conceptual design phase of Space Odyssey.  DSS assumed an integral operational support function once Space Odyssey opened in mid-2003.  This support includes multimedia content production by the Space Sciences Newsroom, development and maintenance of the Museum Galaxy Guide web portal, ongoing volunteer training, participation in the Space Odyssey Core Team, and provision of ongoing scientific expertise.  Such an extensive support role is unique across the Museum's core competencies.

Outreach

The Department of Space Sciences is the Museum leader in delivering outreach programs to our community, making the Museum the place to be for participating in and learning about space exploration.  Outreach programs include:

  • Routine programs such as 60 Minutes in Space, Space Today, and Planet Earth Today
  • Public programs, like lectures, forums, facilitation of guest lectures/programs, and participation in Scientists in Action broadcasts
  • Space events including Shuttle launches/activities/landings, mission launches and key milestones, and "quick response" programs covering late-breaking events
  • Large Space Events like Mars Rover landings, Scott Carpenter Ambassador of Exploration Award, Deep Impact comet encounter, Cassini arrival at Saturn, and the Apollo 40th Anniversary
  • Targets of Opportunity (Orion Launch Abort System, Hubble WFPC2, public appearances by Space Shuttle crews)

Service

Department of Space Sciences members serve the professional community as:

  • Editors of professional journals and popular publications
  • Members of professional committees and boards
  • Members of internal Museum committees, working groups, and core teams

Research

Department of Space Sciences staff engage in world-class scientific research and are leaders in procuring external research funding for projects in:

  • Planetary science
  • Creation and educational utilization of virtual environments
  • Astrobiology
  • Instrumentation
  • Data visualization
  • Education research

Museum All-sky Camera

In 2001, a citizen science effort included a system of allsky cameras, many mounted on the rooftops of schools around the state and one atop the Museum, their purpose is to record the appearance of bright fireballs in the night sky so that the trajectories of the meteorites might be determined and the objects perhaps found.  In addition to helping locate fresh meteorite falls, an allsky camera can provide valuable information about the kind of meteors you can see on any clear night, and about annual meteor showers.

Through our association with Cloudbait Observatory, we actively investigate bright fireballs, both in the interest of determining the original orbit and also of recovering any possible meteorites that might be produced. If you live in Colorado or the surrounding states, and have recently seen a very bright meteor, please report it here.

An extensive network of allsky cameras are in place to record and supplement witness reports. If you witnessed a meteor and are curious if it was recorded, try the real-time meteor log which lists all events captured by the Cloudbait camera as they occur. These events are normally processed into the main database each morning.

A general overview of fireballs can be found here.

60 Minutes in Space

Scientists from the Space Sciences Department at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science take you "behind the stories," using the best images and animation available to help understand the latest developments.

November 2018Steve Lee is our presenter this month. His first story is an in-depth look at the recent landing of NASA spacecraft InSight.

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to study the "inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.

The lander launched from Vandenburg AFB on May 5, 2018. After nearly seven-months the spacecraft landed on Mars on Nov. 26, 2018 at 11:52:59 a.m. PT. The entry, descent, and landing (EDL) phase began when the spacecraft reached the Martian atmosphere, about 80 miles (about 128 kilometers) above the surface, and ended with the lander safe and sound on the surface of Mars six minutes later.

Steve's second story for November is a look at the end of two iconic NASA missions: On Oct. 30, 2018, NASA announced the Kepler Space Telescope had run out of fuel after 9 years in deep space.
Data collected during that time revealed our night sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets - more planets even than stars.

Two days later, NASA announced that the Dawn Spacecraft had gone silent. Mission managers concluded that the spacecraft had run out of the hydrazine fuel that allowed it to control its pointing so it could communicate with Earth.

The Dawn spacecraft launched 11 years ago to visit the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt. Currently, it's in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will remain for decades.

Steve Lee - Mars InSight Entry, Descent and Landing
Runtime - 44:31

Steve Lee - end of Kepler and Dawn missions
Runtime - 7:12

Links to Steve's stories:

NASA Mars InSight Mission

NASA Retires Kepler Space Telescope

NASA's Dawn Mission to Asteroid Belt Comes to End

 

To view past 60 Minutes in Space videos visit our YouTube playlist.

Space News Update

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The Space News Update is put together by volunteers and staff in the Space Sciences Newsroom. Twice a week, they review numerous space news websites to bring you the latest stories and information.

Find out what to watch for in the night sky, the best time to see the International Space Station pass overhead, the Space Image of the Week, and more!

SNU_20181214.pdf
SNU_20181211.pdf

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Monthly Sky Calendar

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December Sky Calendar (pdf)
Highlights this month's sky phenomena and celestial happenings with local dates and times (Mountain Time Zone).

Free sky maps are available at www.skymaps.com.
Skymaps.com produces a nice sky chart to help in locating observable celestial objects. Maps for the month ahead are available only at the end of the current month.

 

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Citizen Science

VENUS WINDS PROJECT
Venus is a planet with a hot and dense atmosphere composed primarily of carbon dioxide. Although the wind velocity at the surface is nearly zero, at an altitude of 50-70 km, the velocity may be as high as 100 m/sec (about 200 miles/hour).

The current goal of the Venus Wind Project is to determine the wind velocity (speed and direction) of clouds. Citizen scientists measure persistent cloud features from infrared images recorded at the high-altitude NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Hawaii.

Meetings
Every other Tuesday
6 - 8 p.m.

For more information about the Venus Winds Project contact Mark A. Bullock [[email protected]]
To inquire about joining the Venus Winds Project contact Arthur Tarr [[email protected]]

Who We Are

The mission of the Department of Space Sciences (DSS) is to educate Museum visitors and our local community with accurate and scientifically sound information regarding space sciences. We accomplish this by communicating up-to-date space sciences information through the Space Odyssey exhibition and public programming. DSS includes research staff with expertise in planetary science, space science, astrobiology, and astrophysics.  Most of the department's collections are digital. The Space Sciences Newsroom is a digital media center with staff and volunteers who produce and maintain a collection of up-to-date resources used in Space Odyssey and space sciences programming.

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