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Patrons gaze at sun, stars at Morris Museum's annual Astronomy Day

posted Apr 10, 2011, 8:09 PM by Anthony Pisano   [ updated Mar 2, 2012, 2:42 PM ]

 — Visitors to the Morris Museum Saturday had the chance to look beyond the facility's walls and learn about planets and stars for the annual Astronomy Day program put on by both the museum and the Morris Museum Astronomical Society.

The program — which ran from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will re-open later in the evening — featured various presentations covering everything from the solar system to space rocks to astrology and everyday use of NASA inventions. Additionally, patrons young and old could gaze at the sun through a telescope with protective filters and see a real-time presentation of stars and constellations in a portable planetarium.
Katie Caljean, education coordinator at the Morris Museum, said one of the museum's goals is to bridge art and science through events like Astronomy Day — an event the museum and Astronomical Society have been hosting for 20 years.
"Museums are more than just the art on the walls,'' Caljean said. "It's interactive and engaged.''
Joe Molnar, 71, of Morristown, was helping patrons get a close-up view of the sun on Saturday afternoon, using a telescope with special, protective filters. One filter makes sunspots on giant star visible; the other reveals solar prominences.
Without the filters, Molnar said, looking at the sun is very dangerous and can cause 
permanent damage to eyes in just a fraction of a second.
A member of the Morris Museum Astronomical Society since 1971 - the year the group was founded — Molnar hoped museum visitors were able to grasp the wonders of nature through Astronomy Day.
"There's a lot of beauty and wonder and knowledge in the night sky - in the day sky, 
too,'' he said.
Astronomy Day continues into the night Saturday, where from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. visitors have the chance to stargaze with members of the society.
The presence of a larger-than-usual moon on Saturday night is expected to be particularly interesting. Known as the ""super moon,'' Saturday night's moon will be the closest the moon has been to Earth in 18 years.
Molnar said the moon would be just barely closer to the Earth and only slightly larger than normal, "but with the unaided eye, you won't notice the difference,'' he said.
Visiting the museum with his grandmother, Brady Hansson, 6, of Hackettstown, enjoyed Astronomy Day - especially being in the planetarium.

"It looked like we were in a big bubble and I was in outer space,'' he said.
Sara Ma, 7, of Summit, enjoyed sun-gazing through the telescopes.
"It felt good, because I never really got to do that,'' she said.