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Astronomy and Space Day at Cradle of Aviation

Richard Huber, the New York Amateur Observers Society's

Richard Huber, the New York Amateur Observers Society's vice president, assists a museum visitor gazing at the sky at the annual Astronomy and Space Day at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. Credit: Handout

With a comet putting on a show in the night sky now, plus a near-miss by an asteroid and a direct hit by a meteor, the celestial bodies would seem to be in alignment Thursday for the Cradle of Aviation Museum's 11th annual Astronomy and Space Day.

"Who doesn't love astronomy?" says Jennifer Baxmeyer, the museum's director of education. The event, she says, is "a nice way for us to wrap up all those things they [children] are learning in school and make it really, really exciting."

In the sky

If skies are clear, the Amateur Observers' Society of New York will be setting up about half a dozen telescopes at the museum entrance -- not for nighttime stargazing, but for looking at the sun during daylight hours. Special telescope filters will make it possible (and safe) to see surface features on the sun, such as granulation and prominences, without harming your eyes, says the group's president, Sue Rose.

The society will be conducting 20-minute star identification programs inside Starlab, a portable planetarium set up in the museum atrium. Volunteers will be pointing out where planets, comets, constellations and other heavenly bodies are located in the night sky, and telling stories about constellations from previous generations of sky watchers. "We'll be explaining what you can expect to see when you go outside on a clear night," Rose says.

On the ground

For the day, the museum atrium will be turned into an astronomy fun center with games, exhibits, hands-on activities and demonstrations. At a workshop titled "Meteorite and Meteor Wrong," the Amateur Observers' Society will be showing off meteorites and explaining the difference between Earth rocks and space rocks. Another workshop focuses on the asteroid belt.

Visitors can examine a replica of a space helmet and a space suit at an interactive cart staffed by museum educators. At another station, kids can use paper and sparkles to make a comet with a shimmering dust tail, and play a matching game to learn the characteristics of meteors, asteroids, meteorites and comets.

Up on the big screen

For a separate admission ($7-$8), see a show inside the JetBlue Sky Theater Planetarium, which is equipped with a high-resolution projection and sound system. The show schedule includes "We are Astronomers," which covers 400 years of astronomy, "One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure to the Moon," for small children, and "Passport to the Universe," a trip through space and time narrated by Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks.

11th Annual Astronomy and Space Day

WHEN|WHERE Noon-4 p.m. Thursday at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Museum Row, East Garden City

INFO 516-572-4111,

ADMISSION $14 adults, $12 ages 2-12 ($17-$19 includes one planetarium show)


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