Hubble Space Telescope turns 25!

April 24, 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was blasted off of Earth on the space shuttle Discovery.  Since then it has continuously taken images of the cosmos that have revolutionized our view of the universe and our place in it.  Celebrate Hubble’s 25th birthday Friday April 24th at the Science Dome!


The best part… there will be FREE cake!

In anticipation of the celebration check out this beautiful montage of Hubble images arranged by Griffith Observatory.  Music by Michael McCuistion from Griffith Observatory Samuel Oschin Planetarium show, Time’s Up


Rethinking Green – Earth Day 2015

Rethinking Green_Final 2015-01

On Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, all faculty, staff, students, and the general public are invited to a videotaped presentation of “Rethinking Green”.  The presentation, sponsored by the Library and Student Life,  will be in the Science Dome (RAI 263) from 1:00 to 2:30,  followed by 30 minutes of discussions in the lobby over snacks provided by Student Life.

Rethinking Green was a lecture given by Stewart Brand at a seminar hosted by The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco, October 9, 2009.

Stewart Brand is a long-time environmentalist.  Between 1968 and 1972 he produced The Whole Earth Catalog which focused on self-sufficiency, ecology, do-it-yourself and holism.  The cover showed a picture of Earth taken from space after Brand had initiated a public campaign to have NASA share the image.

In 2010, his most recent book, Whole Earth Discipline, was published.  This book proposes solutions to many problems, based on current understandings.  They do not necessarily agree with typical environmentalist positions.

In 1996, Brand was one of the founders of The Long Now Foundation.  The Long Now Foundation focuses on long-term thinking which they consider to be the past 10,000 years through the next 10,000 years (hence, their dates have 5 digits instead of 4).  Among their activities are monthly seminars by leading thinkers.

The goal of this presentation is to share ideas that do not typically exist in the media with the hope of generating a robust follow-up discussion for those who enjoy engaging with different ideas.

Please join us for a thought-provoking talk and stimulating discussion!


Are you a Maker? Feature your DIY process in a family-friendly, hands-on, interactive exhibit at MakerFest, FREE.

Makers have until Friday, April 17th to join in the fun. Register Here and Spread the Word!

Remember, you don’t have to be a maker to participate, simply Attend and Explore!

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015
11am-5pm –  FREE
Pierce College – Fort Steilacoom
Rainier Building & Science Dome

Pi Day of the century!!! 3/14/15


Pi Recitation Contests!!

Free planetarium presentations (reserve seats online):

Hands on activities by Pierce College math and science students:

  • Pi Launching, Pierce College Society of Physics Students
  • Make-A-Moon!, Raven Barbera, Alexandra Strobin
  • The Rings of Saturn, Billie Edwards
  • Split in Half: Hot or Cold?, Peyton Schwartz
  • The Bernoulli Bag Challenge, Phillip Munoz
  • What do you see?!, Shelly San Nicolas
  • Cryovolcanos: Space’s Icy MysteriesMaria Addison
  • Too Hot & Too Cold: Blast off to Mercury, Songo Wawa
  • Density in Our Solar System and Beyond!, Oliver Amyakar, Skylar Brooks
  • Ridin’ the Waves, Arianna Lawes-Wiseman, Katreece Moses
  • The Rising Tide, Avonlea Werdell

Solar Viewing with Tacoma Astronomical Society (Weather Permitting)

Lectures (in Rainier 235):

  • The Failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge A brief history of the original Tacoma Narrows bridge  as well as an exploration of a report of the 1940 collapse compiled from investigations by previous experts. Different expert theories will be addressed and analyzed leading to a hypothesis created by the student researchers. Some original mathematical modelling by students of Pierce College on the collapse will also be presented. (~1 hour) noon and 2 pm
  • Earthquakes & a Building’s Harmonic Resonance We are investigating the differential equations used in understanding how a building reacts to an earthquake’s effects. Using a simple mathematical model, we explored two hypothetical buildings and an actual building (Pod A of the Rainier building at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom) to find their harmonic frequencies to predict their survivability in an earthquake. (~ 1 hour) 1 pm and 3 pm

Activities continue after the main Pi Day celebration with the Tacoma Astronomical Society in the evening.  The Tacoma Astronomical Society Students will be presenting the Solar System in the Science Dome at 7:30 pm.  This will be followed by a TAS public night star party (weather permitting).


Getting closer to two dwarf planets

This is going to be a great year for dwarf planet exploration!  Two spacecraft are on their way to completing historic missions: the Dawn spacecraft headed for dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt and New Horizons headed toward Pluto.

Dawn will arrive at Ceres next month after 7.5 years of traveling.  Along the way Dawn stopped to study another object in the asteroid belt, Vesta. Vesta is a tiny world (too tiny to even be called a dwarf planet) but also very large as asteroids go.  To give you a sense of scale the mountain on the bottom of Vesta in the picture below is about twice the height of Mount Everest.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA

Vesta, a large asteroid. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA

In many ways Vesta is an object like our moon – made of rock.  From the way Ceres reflects light it is expected to be quite different – icy like the moons of Jupiter.  As Dawn gets closer it is sending back the best images of Ceres to date (February 5, 2015).


Dwarf planet Ceres from the Dawn spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI


Dwarf planet Ceres from the Dawn spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI

Each pixel in the images above is about 8.5 miles across and we are just beginning to see details.  The good news is the pictures will only get better from here on!

Dawn will be wrapping up its mission at Ceres in July 2015 just as New Horizons will be making its closest approach to Pluto in the outer solar system.  Many people don’t realize this but currently we don’t have detailed pictures of Pluto.  This is a Hubble Space telescope image of Pluto and it is the best image to date of Pluto.

The highest resolution image of Pluto to date. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)

The highest resolution image of Pluto to date. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)

On July 14, 2015 New Horizons will make its closest approach to Pluto, a mere six thousand miles away.  That might seem like a lot but considering it traveled over three billion miles to get there it is nothing!  New Horizons is just starting to wake up and take pictures and pictures taken last week are about as good as the Hubble ones.

Pluto and Charon from the New Horizons Spacecraft.  Image Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI

Pluto and Charon from the New Horizons Spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI

The images are only going to get better!  What mysterious will be discovered about this strange icy world?

Tacoma Astronomical Society

The Tacoma Astronomical Society hosts free public viewing sessions each month at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom.  Indoor lectures, science dome presentations, demonstrations and workshops are available regardless of weather.  On clear nights TAS volunteers provide telescopic observations on the moon, planets, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, double stars and more.  To view their schedule visit:

Triple Transit of Jupiter


Friday January 23rd something is going to happen that won’t happen again until 2032! If you can find a break in the clouds bring out your telescopes and fix them on Jupiter. Jupiter will be rising shortly after sunset and will be the brightest object in the Eastern sky. Through a telescope Jupiter looks like a small disk cut with faint parallel bands. Another unmistakable feature of Jupiter is the presence of its four companions that appear as tiny pricks of light on either side.  These four companions, discovered almost exactly 405 years ago are the Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

As Galileo discovered in January of 1610, these moons are continually dancing around Jupiter in neat little orbits, but Friday night’s dance will be particularly interesting.  It starts at 7:11 pm (PST) when the shadow of Callisto begins to fall on the face of Jupiter.  Io and Europa wait on stage right.  At 8:35 Io’s shadow also appears on Jupiter followed by Europa’s at 10:27 pm.  For about 25 minutes all three shadows will appear on the Jupiter’s cloud tops!

If you have a bigger telescope you should also be able to see the planets themselves pass in front of Jupiter.  Again all three will be cross at the same time from 11:08 -11:12 pm.

If you live in the South Sound area chances are the weather won’t cooperate but you can see a live stream from the Griffith Observatory (in Los Angeles, CA).  You can also stop by the all-ages Science Dome show at 7 pm on Friday night to see a simulation of the even in the dome.

Celestial Celebrations Around the World!


Celestial Celebrations Around the World

THURSDAY December 4th,  2-4 pm 

Join us for several different Celestial Celebrations.  Programming includes.

  • Pale Blue Dot Culture, Josh Bero
  • African Dances for the Days and Seasons, Shalom Aburu
  • Skies and Superstitions, Steven Cagle
  • Native American Sky Stories, Sasha Amador
  • Music and the Stars, Adrian Milanio
  • Digital Design Showcase, Pierce College Digital Design Students

The program will begin at 2 pm with an intermission about half way through.  If you arrive during a presentation we may ask you to wait outside the dome until the next presentation so  the presenter is not interrupted.  Presentations last between 10 and 30 minutes


Family Science Night – November 21st

FamilyScienceNightJoin Central Washington University students in the Science Dome lobby for FREE hands on science activities for kids of all ages!  Activities begin at 5:30 pm, Friday November 21st.

Activities include:

  • Graham Cracker Earthquakes
  • Starburst Rock Cycle
  • Creating Crazy Craters!
  • Fossil Dig

Followed at 7PM by the Pierce College Science Dome All-Ages Public Planetarium Show featuring the video Dynamic Earth, $3 Child, $6 Adult.