Rocketfest: I met Phil Plait!

September 5, 2012


This past Monday (Labor Day) I had the pleasure of meeting someone you’ve seen me reference approximately 8,956 times on this blog- the one and only Dr. Phil Plait, a.k.a. the Bad Astronomer. As I mentioned last week, the U. S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL held a fundraising event called Rocketfest for the Space Camp Foundation, an organization that creates scholarships for kids to go to Space Camp. If you don’t know what Space Camp is, then you need help. Above is photographic proof of the insane amount of nerdery that occurred. Just look at our shirts!

As a music snob of sorts, I had a hard time with the musical performances, though Molly Lewis’ anti-folk leanings reminded me of Jeffrey Lewis at times. That’s definitely a good thing. Phil Plait gave a short presentation on the Mars rover Curiosity, and while it was all stuff I’ve already seen and/or know about the mission, his passionate and charismatic delivery was the star of the show for me. He’s one of the best ambassadors of science to the general public I’ve ever seen, right up there with Adam Savage, and I sincerely hope he continues to become more of a public figure.

The whole point of the event was to raise money for Space Camp scholarships, so if you care about the future of human race, make a donation now. I say that because our future depends on the kids of today becoming more interested in STEM and thus becoming the scientists and engineers that will continue to innovate and improve our technology. Programs like Space Camp are what inspire kids to enter those fields. I wasn’t lucky enough to get to go when I was a kid, but I sure as hell want my kids to go someday. I will probably be able to afford the tuition, but some families aren’t as fortunate, and those kids deserve the chance to go just as much as the fortunate ones.

I now step down from my soapbox. 🙂

Artist interpretation of Kepler 47c. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

It’s been a while since we had any juicy exoplanet news. That changed yesterday as a new breakthrough was announced in exoplanet science. For the first time astronomers have confirmed multiple planets orbiting a binary star. The star is about 5,000 light years away and what really makes this discovery interesting is that one of the two planets orbits in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on its surface. The catch is- the planet is a gas giant, similar to Jupiter and Saturn, but more the size of Uranus. However, planets like that almost always have many moons, some of which could have an atmosphere and even support life, just like the Forest Moon of Endor, home of the Ewoks in Star Wars. Pretty exciting stuff! Read more about it at NewScientist.

In other news, if you’re anywhere in the southeast and looking for some nerdy fun this Labor Day, look no further than Rocket Fest at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. This event just popped onto my radar today via Bad Astronomy, and low & behold Dr. Plait himself will be one of the guest speakers! It should be no secret that I’m a big fan of him and and his blog. This is a fundraiser open to anyone, any age, and the proceeds go to the scholarship fund for Space Camp, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Foundation. Honestly what excites me the most about it (besides seeing Phil Plait speak) is the fact that you can get a signed print of that AWESOME poster for a mere $20 donation. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be there, but I had to mention it because it’s all sorts of awesome!