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Searching for the Moon Over Alaska

By | October 14, 2013 - 11:48 am

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moon final

Today we’re searching for the moon.

Saturday was International Observe the Moon Night, and a group of staff at the Anchorage Loussac Library celebrated it for their third consecutive year. Linda Klein is the youth services librarian at the Loussac, and is running tonight’s event. She’s excited to be a part of the world’s astronomy community.

“If you go on to the International Moon Night’s website you can see all the events that are going on all over the world. Some of them are happening at people’s houses, some are happening at big planetariums. Everyone pretty much just does what they want to observe the moon,” says Klein. But it’s raining tonight and the moon is blocked by clouds, so we’ll have to do our lunar activities indoors.

On the first floor of the library some work stations are set up, and the most popular one by far is the Oreo station. “So what we’re going to do with our Oreo cookies is pretend that’s the moon,” Klein says. She uses a butter knife to scrape off different amounts of frosting on several cookies, displaying each phase of the moon. 

“Now look, guess what this one is,” Klein says to the children gathered around her.  ”You know what we call this one, where you can’t see anything? That’s called the new moon.” But the children know what the most important question is. “So, are we going to eat that,” a child asks.

Professor explains the phases of the moon.

Professor Rector explains the phases of the moon.

Spirits are high in library, but Klein says she’s had some serious hurdles tonight. First there was the bad weather to deal with. And then? “I’m trying to get on NASA’s website to find out the latest information on Laddy, and oh my gosh, I can’t get anything. All the websites are down. It’s so frustrating,” Klein says.

But Klein is not going to let federal shut downs and poor weather stop her moon celebration. She has brought in a guest speaker for a presentation in the library’s auditorium. Travis Rector is a Professor of astronomy at UAA, and a moon lover.

“For me it’s like a regular companion. Whenever the sky is clear I’m looking for it. It’s like an old friend that you’re always happy to see,” says Rector. His presentation tonight is mostly geared for kids; describing waxing and waning, the orbit of the moon. But I have to admit, and my 7th grade teacher would be so upset, I couldn’t remember the answer to this: “Do we always see the same side of the moon?”

For the answer, Rector uses children from the audience. “OK, so how about you be the sun, you be the earth, and I want you to be the moon. Just stand right there,” Rector says. While the earth child spins in place, Rector has the moon child orbit around him. But the whole time the moon child orbits, he stays facing the sun, always showing the same side of the moon to the earth.

“OK you can stop kiddo. That was good I think we went through about 14 years there,” Rector says to a laughing audience. He says it doesn’t matter what age you are. You can find something to appreciate about the moon, especially if you’re Alaskan.

“The tides are of course critical to life here in Alaska. Everyone who is a fisherman or a kayaker knows about the tides. The tides are an important source of energy for many forms of life in the ocean and it’s thought that the tides actually help the development of life here on earth. We think that life wouldn’t be how it is now if it wasn’t for the moon,” says Rector.

As the event organizer, Linda Klein hopes her guests will now agree with Rector’s sentiment, and that they leave International Observe the Moon Night with something new. “Kind of an appreciation of the moon; looking up at the sky at night, maybe getting a little curious about science and space exploration. That’s what I hope people come away with,” Klein says.

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