Winter Break: visiting the best meteor crater ever ever ever

Dear Students,

If you looked at my calendar for Winter Break you would see I picked out a special day to travel north to take a gander at a giant hole in the ground. Can you believe this is Arizona and not the surface of the moon? No wonder NASA sent astronauts here with a moon rover to train prior to our first trip to the moon.

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In the end, after seeing it on TV so many times, we had to go and see it for ourselves. I bought a voucher from Deal Chicken, so our family of 4 was only $20.00. (Max was free, so I gave his ticket to someone in line, that felt good to do too!). Sites like Deal Chicken, Groupon and Living Social are the mainstay of our family recreation budget.

Inside the visitors center is an interactive museum, films, hands on display, an appealing gift shop, a Subway and this giant meteorite!

Inside the visitors center is an interactive museum, films, hands on display, an appealing gift shop, a Subway and this giant meteorite! This meteorite is the largest fragment found on site. Most of the 150 foot original meteor exploded on impact.

I wasn’t sure about visiting Meteor Crater in the winter. I thought it would be covered with snow (turns out snow melts quickly here). I thought it would be cold. The temp was 32 degrees when we started our tour but for some reason it felt fine. We were in direct sunlight and there was just a light wind. Normally it is very windy and most times of the year, very hot. I suppose winter break is the best time to go.

After our tour we posed for a picture. The tour is one hour long, but even Max did not mind. It's the best way to learn about the site.

After our tour we posed for a picture. The outside tour is one hour long, but even Max did not mind. It’s the best way to learn about the site. I hope you can visit soon!

Next time we go to Flagstaff, I will detour to the Cinder Lake Crater Field (outside of Flagstaff) and the Astrogeology Science Center. Arizona is the best place to grow up if you want to be an astronaut! What is next for NASA in 2013? Find out here.

Construction on 27-28 July 1967 of Cinder Lake Crater Field ...Construction on 27-28 July 1967 of Cinder Lake Crater Field # 1 just northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona (a) backhoe digging of 47 holes to precise depths, and in which to bury precisely-measured explosives at each surveyed crater site; red bailey back to camera P447, F106754 USGS Open-File Report 2005-1190, Figure 048a. - ID. Project Apollo (1960-1973) 048a - pap0048a - U.S. Geological Survey - Public domain image

Construction on 27-28 July 1967 of Cinder Lake Crater Field …
Construction on 27-28 July 1967 of Cinder Lake Crater Field # 1 just northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona (a) backhoe digging of 47 holes to precise depths, and in which to bury precisely-measured explosives at each surveyed crater site; red bailey back to camera P447, F106754 USGS Open-File Report 2005-1190, Figure 048a. – ID. Project Apollo (1960-1973) 048a – pap0048a – U.S. Geological Survey – Public domain image

p.s. Mark your calendar with the dates of upcoming NASA launches.

p.p.s. The Cinder Lake Crater field is full of ATV’s so the evidence of NASA training is long gone for the most part.

We passed this sign on the way to the crater. Funny!

We passed this sign on the way to the crater. Funny!

A trip to the Biosphere II

Dear Students,

On the way home from Tucson, I took the long way and stopped by the Biosphere II in Oracle, Arizona. This is a photo heavy post today. I want to give you an idea of how much there was to see and do at the Biosphere.

The drive to Oracle from Tucson was very pretty. We loved the mountains, the cloudy summer sky. On Biosphere Road beyond the cattle guard were cattle grazing freely. Moooooo.

The Biosphere is a science campus nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains. The countryside is gorgeous.

I took this picture with my phone, so multiply this picture by 10000 and you have how pretty it was. This is a shot from the campus to the mountains.

Biosphere II is a science wonderland. It is a place for researchers to study the water cycle, biomes, climate change and imagine colonizing outer space. It is hard to explain which is why you should visit and tell me what you think the Biosphere is.

We visited at noon on a Saturday so our tour was crowded. Next time I will go during off peak times because part of the fun was running around outside.

You start at the visitor’s center, walk through a tiny neighborhood of colorfully painted houses with pretty landscaping.

I pointed out to Brady how concrete the language they used here was “our tour would be 1 hour and 15 minutes long, cover one mile and 200 steps”. We talked about how simple and beautiful the design was.

Everything has clean lines and simple shapes. The grounds are dotted with petrified wood and boulders striped with blue green ores.

This is not turquoise, but I did not write the name down. What kind of ore do you think this is? We saw at least 10 boulders like this on the way to the Biosphere entrance.

Our tour guide was Mr. Claudio. Our tour was crowded because we came at mid day on a Saturday.

The size of the tour and the uncertain acoustics in the different rooms meant we couldn’t understand the guided tour. Some of the ideas were a over the head of the boys. We got by just fine by looking around at the plants, the different rooms and talking about savannah, rain forests, deserts. So even without understanding anything he said, we still had fun.

What makes the biosphere fun is the scale and the materials they use to build. These look like toys we have, but look how they use them.

We liked the giant plants.

What kind of plant is this? It has beautiful glossy leaves.

We liked the sound of water and wind inside the great space.

Conducting experiments on breaking down waste.

This was a very sensory place. In a good way.

This passage way descended 200 feet and culminated in a half size triangle portal, no problem for the boys. Very fun.

The passage opened into the South Lung a giant echo chamber. Picture a giant white barrel. Giant. that is what we were inside. No way to convey the scale with my camera phone so I just captured moment of Mr. Claudio using a mike in an echo chamber. (he had it turned down)

Oh my I thought this was funny. He kept up his tour but within an echo chamber it was so echoey. Awesome!!

Last bit, the wind machines in the basement. They had another name but I have no idea what that was. They were fun! And windy!

There was a bank of giant wind machines which I would love to understand what that was all about. It was enough to be at the tail end of the tour and enjoy the great gusts of air. Awesome.

After the tour we had a lunch in the cafeteria and then home via the Pinal Pioneer Highway.

Draped over the hillside are solar panels. It is easy to talk about carbon footprint and using the Earth’s resources gently in a place like this. It makes sense.

Under a glass dome,
Mrs. Kenney

P.S. We used a groupon to buy a one year family membership to Biosphere. (It is no longer available but I link to it so you can see what the deal was). It was offered near the beginning of summer as a way to pump up attendance. I hope they offer it again next year. I follow groupons for Phoenix and Tucson and I notice that the deals repeat. Do you have a favorite way to save on family outings?

AZ Science Center/ Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah

We took a mental health day and went to the AZ Science center. My mom was visiting and I wanted the boys to spend time with her. I also love to go exploring during off-peak hours.

I had a Groupon burning a hole in my pocket for The National Geographic exhibit “Real Pirates“, I love the Science center — on a weekday. This was my first time visiting when it was not mobbed.

We parked in the parking garage adjacent to the science center (cheaper than metered street parking) and the center validates your ticket for you, so bring your ticket inside. They have a nice lunchroom if you choose to pack a lunch, you can sit in a cafeteria. Mom note: cell phone coverage in the museum is spotty. The thick walls block your signal. If you are with a group pick a meeting spot since your phone won’t work reliably.

The museum has appeal for little ones as well as older kids. They have an IMAX and a planetarium (require an extra ticket). My boys love science and engineering oriented activities, I regard this museum as better for school age kids because the concepts are more complicated. As a contrast, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is all about “play”– diving in, touching things, sensory experiences, the AZ Science center is just as hands-on but you get more out of it if you can read or follow the ideas they are presenting.

We visited the Body Worlds exhibit last year and used a Groupon. (I wonder if they always offer Groupons when they have a traveling exhibit.) The next one is Van Gogh Alive opening in February 2012. I plan to visit this exhibit as well.

The Pirate Whydah exhibition was on the 3rd floor in a cordoned area. They monitored traffic, so no readmission. No pictures. It opened with a 4 1/2 minute video that introduced the story behind the exhibit, the dream of one man to find the pirate ship he heard about as a boy. You enter the exhibit through a raised curtain. The room is dark and draped in black curtains. I thought the presentation was cool. The first item was the Whydah’s bell, in a sea-water filled chamber, it looked dramatic and it is easy to imagine it under the ocean for a century.

You wended through rooms following a journey that established the context of the slave trade/pirate world. Lots of mannequins and signs to read with artifacts relating to slave ships. My 4 and 6 year olds were not engaged but I liked it. If you are a pirate fan it is a home run.  The rooms are arranged like dioramas (crew, cabins) some were full of artifacts cannons, guns, treasure. The end included exhibits about the nature of the recovery and their desire to keep the collection intact. They had cases showing what the artifacts looked like when they found them, you could learn about the restoration process. Barry Clifford, the intrepid treasure hunter gave a small talk on a monitor talking about the Whydah as a “Time Capsule”. I thought it was well done and inspiring–a favorite part was an exhibit with pirate treasure exposed through lucite cutouts, you could touch the actual treasure. The exit was in the gift shop. I picked up the guide-book for $19.95, don’t make my mistake you can get it used on Amazon for 4.00 shipped. If you can’t make the exhibit but love pirates, you can follow the links provided National Geographic loads up the page with information about the Whydah. I found this random post about Barry Clifford here, I like it because the writer heard him speak personally and this note includes photos of the Whydah booty that I could not take. Enjoy! I mean, Shiver me timbers!

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