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Paper: It's All Star Stuff: Element Activities at Death Valley
Volume: 531, ASP2020: Embracing the Future: Astronomy Teaching and Public Engagement
Page: 463
Authors: Eyermann, S. E.; Mitchell, S. E.; Milotte, C. H.
Abstract: What connects Death Valley, exploding stars, and you and me? The chemical elements! When our Astrophysics Education Team (funded under the NASA Space Science Education Consortium) was first given the opportunity to participate in the Death Valley Dark Sky Festival, we were faced with the question of how we could link our typical content about the universe beyond the solar system to the unique natural wonders and heritage of Death Valley National Park. Elements are everywhere – whether we study places on Earth, objects in space, or our own bodies, we find the same fundamental building blocks. Talking about elements in Death Valley provides a powerful opportunity to connect the elements within the geologic formations of the park to their creation in space and talk about how we're all made of “star stuff.” For the 2020 event, we chose a complementary set of activities to engage festival visitors at our booth and families participating in scheduled hands-on sessions. These activities explored where heavier elements are generated in space — primarily through stellar fusion and supernovae — and drew parallels between the compositions of objects on Earth and in space. Park rangers and participants said that these activities gave them a new way to look at the natural world around them and their personal connections to the cosmos. In addition, a discussion of space-based objects during daytime activities provided a natural segue into the event's nighttime observing activities.
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