Museum celebrates the sun this SUNday

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RALEIGH— The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is hosting International SUNday this Sunday to celebrate and educate about the sun.

Safely view the sun through solar telescopes, hear about unusual space weather and current solar research, and learn about the total solar eclipse happening in August. International SUNday is held annually on the Sunday nearest to the summer solstice, which is the day with the most hours of sunlight during the entire year, marking the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. The event is free and will last from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

Visitors can safely look at the sun through the museum’s special Hydrogen-Alpha telescope, which highlights fascinating surface features and solar storms, on the rooftop terrace of the Nature Research Center from 1 - 3:30 p.m.

Visitors can also attend talks in the museum’s SECU Daily Planet Theater.

While rain may obscure observation of the Sun, the presentations will happen rain or shine, and the museum’s Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab will be open with astronomers and students available to talk with visitors about the sun and current solar scientific exploration.

Day to Night and Back Again: The Solar Eclipse of 2017

12:30 p.m.

On Aug. 21, 2017, people across North America will see an unusual shadow of darkness. Known as a total solar eclipse, this natural phenomenon occurs when the moon covers the disk of the sun, offering rare opportunities to experience the onset of twilight in the middle of the day, to study certain properties of the sun possible only during eclipses, and to witness odd effects on animal and plant behavior. Join museum astronomer Rachel Smith to learn about the physics behind eclipses, the exciting science made possible by such events, and how you can be part of this exciting celestial event.

The Sun: Common and Uncommon Events

1 p.m.

The sun is our closest star and from a distance it seems unchanging. The sun is not a calm object though. A close look at the surface gives it the impression of boiling soup. We can see hot gas trapped in giant magnetic loops arching over its surface. We also see occasional, highly energetic eruptions blast from its surface. The sun interacts with the Earth in familiar ways, such as producing colorful auroras, and occasionally also produces dramatic far-reaching effects, such as the Quebec Blackout in 1989. In this program, museum astronomer Patrick Treuthardt will highlight some of the common and uncommon events produced by the sun.