More than 500 eager children and parents skittered into Christown Spectrum Mall in Phoenix Saturday morning to eat freeze-dried ice cream, do a meteorite dig and view The World at Night, an international cosmic-themed photography exhibit.
The World at Night featured cosmic nighttime photographs of stars and moons over historical architectural landmarks from all over the world.
ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration participated in the event by putting together a meteorite dig that used pieces of meteorite billions of years old.
“We do this at many public outreach programs,” said astrophysics graduate student Michael Rutkowski. “The kids like it because it’s fun to go digging in sand and they get to keep something that comes from outer space.”
Children used magnetic devices to grab crushed pieces of the ancient metallic stones, some of which were imported from the Canyon Diablo meteorite in Flagstaff.
Space lovers were also able to view new photographs of the planets taken by the Hubble Space Telescope about two weeks ago, including a photograph of an exploding star.
Matt Mechtley, an astronomy graduate student at ASU in charge of the Hubble images, said some of the images are of five galaxies that are merging with each other.
“We’ve got a picture of Jupiter that was recently hit by a piece of an asteroid or a comet,” Mechtley said, pointing to a dark spot near the bottom of Jupiter on a poster.
Participants also watched a dry ice and liquid nitrogen demonstration that showed what meteorites look like after impact and compared their Earth weight to other planets on scales.
Nicole Staab, media and public relations coordinator for the School of Earth and Space Exploration, said the purpose of the event was to get children more excited about science.
“By engaging the community in the excitement of science and making our research accessible to the community, we are helping to address the need for greater science and engineering literacy in America,” Staab said in an e-mail.
The day also held a contest for tickets to Star Wars: In Concert on Sunday night.
Attendees took photographs with Star Wars characters and Captain Zula, a purple alien, from the kid’s television show The Zula Patrol.
Blend Fresh Marketing, a company sponsoring the exhibition, helped put together the “Stars Over Spectrum Mall” event to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy.
The company’s coordinators Pam Longbine and Ruth Rosenquist handled the traveling exhibit, which is being showed in Phoenix for the first time.
“What I love is being able to offer an opportunity that is totally free,” Longbine said. “We kind of mixed education with fun. It’s remarkable and we’re glad to have it.”
Events will continue on Oct. 10 with demonstrations from The Arizona Science Center and a 40-foot-long virtual mission through the solar system presented by the Challenger Space Center.
The World at Night photography exhibit will be on display until Oct.18.