A lunar experience from `inner space'


October 17, 2002|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE HOWARD Astronomical League of Central Maryland threw a lunar party - called "Moonstruck!" - Saturday at Glenwood Senior Center.

Because of poor weather conditions, computers and slide shows replaced the planned telescopic lunar viewing stations. But HAL members were fully prepared, and the show went on without a hitch.

Those who attended learned about moon craters, lunar mountains and "Tranquility Base," where American astronauts landed on the moon. Children could make their own craters by dropping a ball into a container of flour. Lunar maps, charts, books and moon globes were on display.

Although moon rocks were not available, earth rocks served as replicas. A computer program explained craters by simulating the impact of objects striking a battered lunar surface, destroying old craters and forming new ones.

Michelle Koopman of Mount Rainier attended with her husband, Phil, and children Emy, 6, and Tyler, 9. She found it fascinating. "It was interesting that some of the craters were named after seas because people first looking at them assumed they were water," she said.

Koopman said she enjoyed learning new things and giving her children an opportunity to see and learn something new.

Jerry Persall, president of HAL, presented a talk, "Ten Things I Think You Ought to Know About the Moon." He said he enjoys sharing his expertise. "We bring astronomy to people who don't really get a chance to see things through really, really good telescopes," he said.

A retired corporate executive, Persall became interested in astronomy 25 years ago when he was traveling in Kansas City. He said the night sky he saw there was the same sky he saw at home - and that piqued his interest.

Now Persall has a private observatory in his Ellicott City home and teaches astronomy in his spare time. Astronomy is "one of the most important things in my life," he said.

According to secretary ZoAnn Lapinsky, the Howard Astronomical League of Central Maryland was founded in June 2000. "We are primarily a Howard County-based organization, but we do serve all of Central Maryland," she said.

The group holds monthly meetings and provides resources for groups and educational organizations, in addition to organizing "star parties" for league members and the public. But perhaps most important, the league "provides a social setting for local amateur astronomers," Lapinsky said.

At two viewing sites in Howard County - Carr's Mill and Alpha Ridge parks - HAL members have led school astronomy activities and helped Scouts earn badges.

"Our last public star party had a total of about 20 telescopes set up and 60 people overall," said Marc Feuerberg, HAL's treasurer. "They are turning into pretty big events."

Just for fun, HAL member Joe Spero provided lunar-themed refreshments, including Green Cheese Cake, Moon Punch and MoonPies.

"We learned a lot about the moon," Koopman said, adding that her children enjoyed making craters in the flour. "It was a lot of fun," she said. "I highly recommend going to one of these events."

HAL plans twice yearly presentations through the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks. The next meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. today at the department's headquarters, 7120 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia.

Information: http://www.howardastro.org.

These difficult times

We parents are right to be concerned about the safety of our children in these difficult times. Are schools taking the correct steps to secure their safety in light of the recent sniper shootings?

"Certainly, we can't close schools indefinitely during situations like these," said Gene C. Rodgers of Woodbine. "Like any parent, I am just trying to figure out if there is anything else that we could be doing to best ensure the safety of our children."

Parents can find comfort in the fact that schools are in modified lockdown and there is increased police presence at every school. Ann Morgan of Lisbon, a mother who teaches in Montgomery County, knows that it is important for teachers to remain composed during this trying time.

"Thank you to all the staff who have remained calm and focused with our kids, despite their own stress," she said.

Rose O'Neill of Westminster agreed. "I am eternally grateful to all teachers and staff who are continuing to function in the face of this," she said. She offered this advice: "In the final analysis, it is up to each individual parent to decide on what risks they can live with."

Children's Chorus

Lisbon Elementary pupils Emily Moore, Sara Brister and Katie Pindell auditioned and were accepted to represent their school in the Howard County Children's Chorus.

The chorus is made up of 100 fourth- and fifth-graders from the 37 Howard County elementary schools.

Congratulations, girls!

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