May 5-9, 2018
During the week that we spent in Flagstaff, Brad had a lot of work to do, so the girls & I tried to plan a lot of activities to keep us out of the camper so he could work. We did this by visiting several of the National Parks in the surrounding area, including Sunset Crater Volcano, Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, and Montezuma Castle.
One of the best things about Flagstaff: our ASTC museum membership got us free admission to the Lowell Observatory.
Many amazing things have been discovered or researched from this facility, one of the most notable being the discovery of Pluto. The telescope used to find this then-planet, now one-of-many-thousands of objects in the Kuiper belt (one funny presenter said if we’re going to call Pluto a planet, then all the other hundreds of objects would be planets too, and then it would be impossible to pass the 3rd grade….Sunny found this totally hilarious) is still a functioning unit at the Observatory.
We wished we had gone earlier in the week so that we could have spent more time here. We ended up only having 1 afternoon/evening, but thoroughly enjoyed it. We recently wrapped up a homeschooling unit on the solar system, so these attentive, knowledgeable little girls in a room full of adults for “Tour of the Solor System” thoroughly impressed the presenter, and threatened to make him go over-time due to all of their questions/comments. He reviewed a lot of the things we had learned and added in many more interested details, plus we got to ask him some of the questions we had after our studies, like how exactly the 4 “gas giant” planets are gas. (I still can’t explain it…don’t ask me!)
We returned for an evening program, from which 4 main things have stuck with us:
1. Although many people fear the end of our planet will be as a big, hot mess when the sun explodes, we will actually be destroyed millions of years sooner than that when the closest galaxy to us, Andromeda, crashes into us. Most likely the impact of this colossal event will knock all of the planets out of orbit, and as Earth is flung out into space further & further from the sun, all water on Earth will freeze in a matter of minutes, and all life on Earth will freeze to death immediately.
2. The light coming into our eyes from the furthest stars we can see with our naked eye, left those stars about 5 million years ago. So when we look up into the night sky, we are actually seeing back in time. This COMPLETELY blew Sunny’s mind and she has brought it up multiple times since.
3. There is another person in the world who’s favorite animal is the walrus! We actually cosssed paths with this sweet family as we decended the steps to explore the ruins at Walnut Canyon N.P. Chrissy, a warm, gregarious, soul-expansive woman (who also goes by Bubbles the Clown) discovered my eldest far ahead of us on the trail (per usual) and struck up a conversation with her to make sure she was OK. Then she chatted with Coral about the adorable fact that she had counted each step down into the canyon outloud…a very discouraging thing to hear for those just beginning their way back up. When we bumped into each other later that afternoon at the observatory, she recognized us and we chatted again. We ended up sharing some details about our adventure with them and Chrissy was enthralled. Coral was delighted to learn that another member of her party, her daughter McKenzie, shares a love for walruses. When we returned to the observatory that night for the evening programs, Coral brought along a whole bag of treasrues to show off, including her 2 stuffed walruses and her Junior Ranger Badges. Bubbles the Clown was so blown away by the number of badges the girls have earned that she fell onto the floor in the lecture hall in exaggerated surprise. We loved her so much.
4. You can see some of Jupiter’s largest 4 moons through a really good pair of binoculars.