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New Mexico State University

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NMSU invites public to solar extravaganza June 12-13

The Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society is hosting its annual meeting in Las Cruces and teachers, students and the public are invited to special events at New Mexico State University June 12-13. Participants will get an inside view of how scientists are cracking the mysteries of the sun, including how it sustains its ultra-hot corona and how the sun creates space weather on Earth.


The events are organized jointly by NMSU's Department of Astronomy and the American Astronomical Society Solar Physics Division Education and Public Outreach Committee.

"We want people to come and see the beautiful images and movies that NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has been giving us of the sun for the past year, from a very different perspective than we usually view it, and to learn why studying the sun is important, said Jason Jackiewicz, assistant professor of astronomy. "Hopefully we can encourage high school and college students in attendance that there are many things still to learn and that entering this field provides a great opportunity to become a professional astronomer."

Science teachers and students interested in astronomy are invited to attend an afternoon reception with leading solar physicists from 4-6 p.m. June 12 at the NMSU Golf Course banquet room and patio at 3000 Herb Wimberly Drive.

The reception will include light refreshments and offer teachers and students a chance to talk with solar physicists from the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, N.M., NASA, and other organizations about careers in studying the sun. Teachers are invited to stay for the opening reception of the SPD meeting from 6-9 p.m. for an opportunity to meet more solar scientists.

"The event on Sunday is intended to bring science teachers, students and professional solar astronomers together in a very informal meeting to share ideas and experiences," Jackiewicz said. "It will also show how various employment opportunities are available in the field."

On June 13, the public can attend a hands-on science day at the Horseshoe in the center of the NMSU campus and a lecture in the nearby Music Building. From 5-7 p.m., the public will be able to observe the sun through telescopes provided by the National Solar Observatory and NMSU's Department of Astronomy. Additional sun and space science exhibits will be provided by Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center from Palo Alto, Calif., the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, the Challenger Space Science Education Center in Albuquerque, and the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society.

The public is then invited to hear Dean Pesnell of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center speak about the sun and its connections to life on Earth in his talk, "The Many Colors of the Sun." Pesnell is in charge of the recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory that is teaching scientists new things about the sun every day, including the violent events that occur there that can disrupt life here. The SDO, parked in a geosynchronous orbit almost directly over Las Cruces, has several telescopes that continuously observe violent solar activities in ultraviolet light and x-rays. Pesnell will speak in Atkinson Hall in the NMSU Music Building from 7-9 p.m.

Information on the meeting is available at: http://astronomy.nmsu.edu/SPD2011/. Directions to the Golf Course banquet room and patio are at:http://conference.nmsu.edu/GolfCourse.htm. Directions to the Horseshoe are at: http://www.nmsu.edu/General/Maps/sites/horseshoe.html.