JeffCo Library unveils ‘Discover Exoplanets’

Posted 7/31/19

Before they could present their new “Discover Exoplanets” hands-on interactive exhibit - scheduled for August debut - the staff of the Jefferson County Library had to unpack its 1,252 pounds of components from six wooden crates, plus a large plastic tub and a bag of tools, and assemble them on the evening of July 26.

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JeffCo Library unveils ‘Discover Exoplanets’

Posted

Before they could present their new “Discover Exoplanets” hands-on interactive exhibit - scheduled for August debut - the staff of the Jefferson County Library had to unpack its 1,252 pounds of components from six wooden crates, plus a large plastic tub and a bag of tools, and assemble them on the evening of July 26.

Chris HoffmanHill, public services manager for the Jefferson County Library, was one of the first to tackle the unpacking at 7 p.m. that Friday, before her fellow staffers joined her and completed the work sometime after 10:30 p.m.

“We’ve been talking about this exhibit for the past year, so we’re going to put it to good use,” HoffmanHill said. “We’re working with every school district in East Jefferson County to ensure they’ll be able to get their students field trips to this exhibit.”

The exhibit is “Discover Exoplanets: The Search for Alien Earths,” and Brwyn Griffin, administrative services manager for the Jefferson County Library, pointed out that it’s one of only seven sites nationwide that will host the exhibit, “which we think is a pretty big deal.”

The Jefferson County Library and the Washington State University Extension Office for Jefferson County were awarded an exhibit grant for two 600-square-foot exhibits, one at the library and the other at the WSU Extension’s classroom space at the Kivley Center.

The library will host four interactive kiosks, while WSU Extension will host three plus a pair of virtual reality goggles.

Library Director Tamara Meredith explained that the exhibit is designed to introduce patrons “to the tools NASA scientists use for discovering exoplanets, the fascinating world of space and astronomy, and the search for life on other planets.”

From Aug. 1 through Oct. 18, the exhibit is on display during regular library operating hours, so visitors can build their own solar systems, see the most recent discoveries by NASA, and learn about whether popular TV and movies contain “Science Fact or Science Fiction.”

The Quilcene School District is already scheduled to visit the exhibit the week of Sept. 16-20, and HoffmanHill has initiated discussions with the Brinnon, Chimacum and Port Townsend school districts to schedule their field trips during the first two months of the 2019-20 school year.

“Ideally, we’d receive the students at the library before we open, between 8-10 a.m., and then send them over to the WSU Extension,” HoffmanHill said. “Our goal is to have EVERY school child in Jefferson County visit the exhibit.”

HoffmanHill recalled attending a training session alongside Su Tipton from WSU Extension, where they interacted with the exhibits prior to receiving them.

“It was engaging, fun and instructive play that taught me about space science,” HoffmanHill said. “I have astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger interested in doing a program to kick off the exhibit in August, and I’m working on bringing more astronauts in as well.”

Among those who also expressed a willingness to take part in the program were retired NASA astronaut John Fabian, retired scientist Jay Bakst and Battle Point Astronomical Association Education Director Dave Fong.

HoffmanHill has also corresponded with Eliot Malumuth, who’s worked on both the Hubble and Webb telescopes, and Steve Ruhl, an amateur astronomer with the Olympic Astronomical Society who’s leading a multi-telescope sky viewing program.

“And the WSU Extension robotics clubs will develop hands-on programs to complement the exhibit,” HoffmanHill said. “Not every kid can make the trip to the Pacific Science Center, so we need to bring that level of education to the Olympic Peninsula. How many children will have their interests sparked in science or the broader cosmos surrounding them?”

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