The Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails, the Anne Arundel Community College Astronomy Club and the Astrophysics Science and Planetary Science Divisions of the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center have teamed up to offer a day of free public programs focusing on our solar system. The events will include a Planet Walk on the B&A Trail, a multimedia presentation at Anne Arundel Community College and an evening Star Gazing Party at the AACC Observatory.
The day’s events will kick off at 10:30 am with a Planet Walk along a 4.7 mile segment of the B&A Trail between Glen Burnie and Severna Park. This segment of the Trail features two sculptures and ten information stations representing the Sun and the planets of the Solar System, with each planet’s station spaced at its proportional distance from the Sun. The sculptural stainless steel markers have been placed to mark the relative location of each planet site along the route. Between 10:30 am and 3:00 pm, planetary scientists and astronomers from NASA/Goddard, area colleges and universities and local astronomy clubs will be at each of the planet stations to provide additional information about that planet and answer questions.
Participants can walk or bicycle the 4.7 mile course between the Sun Sculpture, located just south of Aquahart Road behind Harundale Plaza in Glen Burnie and the Pluto sculpture, located just north of the Earleigh Heights Road Ranger Station in Severna Park. The event is free and free parking is located adjacent to the beginning of the Planet Walk. It is recommended that participants start at the Sun Station. For participants seeking a shorter or less time-consuming experience, the six planets between the Sun and Saturn can be visited in the first 1 1/4 miles of the Planet Walk between Harundale and the Marley Station Mall. The event will be cancelled in the event of heavy rain.
Special evening events are also scheduled at Anne Arundel Community College’s Arnold campus. At 7:30 pm a free public multimedia presentation will be presented in Room 110 of the College’s Dragun Science Building. Dr. Casey Lisse of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics laboratory will be speaking on “The Prospects for Life and Habitability Around Nearby Planets and Stars”. Dr. Lisse’s scientific focus is on the origin and evolution of solar systems, where he draws on his background in material physics, history and astronomy. Since 2004, he has worked at JHU-APL in Laurel, MD on a series of interplanetary exploratory missions.
Following Dr. Lisse’s presentation, there will be a question and answer session as well as drawings for the daytime Planet Walk raffle. Raffle entries are available to all Planet Walk participants who complete the 4.7 mile planetary journey. This multimedia program will be presented regardless of weather conditions.
After the presentation, beginning at 8:30 pm, the AACC Astronomy Club will host a free public Star Gazing Party at the College Observatory. The Observatory is located outside Parking Lot “B” on the Arnold campus. Participants will have the opportunity to utilize the Observatory’s telescopes with the assistance of Astronomy Club members and may also bring their own telescopes. The Star Gazing Party will be cancelled in the event that overcast conditions or inclement weather prevent making celestial observations.
The activities of May 3 will give participants a chance to gain greater insight into the makeup of our solar system as well as to gain knowledge of some of the ongoing research which continues to bring us new and exciting revelations. Additional information about the day’s events is also available on Facebook and at www.friendsofaatrails.org.