Celebrate Moon Landing’s 50th Anniversary at Museum’s Astronomy Days, Jan. 26-27


Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on July 20, 1969. Armstrong’s first step onto the lunar surface, and now-famous exclamation “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” was broadcast on live TV to a worldwide audience. Learn more about the history of human endeavors to reach the Moon, including the Apollo landings, present-day orbiters, and future projects that will help prepare for a possible lunar colony, when the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences hosts Astronomy Days, Saturday, Jan. 26, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 27, noon–5 p.m. 


From telescope crafts to astrophotography, dry-ice comets to rocket launches, this free event is for space enthusiasts of all ages. Featured speakers and topics this year include:


  • Allan H. Treiman, Associate Director of Science for the Lunar and Planetary Institute, will talk about “The New ‘Wet’ Moon.” Earth’s Moon seems a lot different than it did 10 or 20 years ago. New discoveries in old Moon rocks show that our Moon had far more water than was believed — water that we can perhaps use.
  • Carter Emmart, Director for Astrovisualization at the American Museum of Natural History, who will talk about “Apollo’s Lunar Exploration.” While this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of landing on the moon, more current robotic missions have imaged what we left there and made maps that can compare to photographic mapping carried out by the Apollo Program. Journey back to our landing sites on a guided tour through data visualization.
  • Jani Radebaugh, Associate Professor of Geological Sciences at Brigham Young University, will talk about “Titan: Saturn’s Earth-like Moon.” Titan has a surface so cold that methane is liquid, and water is solid. But the landscapes are amazingly Earth-like. Radebaugh will show what we learned from the Cassini mission and discuss her illuminating adventures on Earth.
  • Rachel Smith, Head of the Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, will discuss “Life and the Moon.” Smith will present current scientific thinking on the importance of our Moon for maintaining a habitable planet and possibly hosting its own life, and how new technology is leading to the discovery of exomoons in distant star systems.   


Additionally, aspiring rocketeers can gaze at the 40-foot working models of the Tripoli Rocketry Association. Sun worshipers can peer at the Sun (safely) through solar telescopes provided by NCMNS astronomers and the Raleigh Astronomy Club. All visitors can make and blast off their own bottle rocket on the Museum plaza, find out how much they weigh on different moons and planets, or meet live animals of the constellations (like the bearded dragon, which represents the constellation Draco).


Astronomy Days is presented in collaboration with the Raleigh Astronomy Club. Astronomy Days exhibitors include NC State University, Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), CHAOS (Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society), Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, and SAS Curriculum Pathways. For more information about Astronomy Days, visit www.naturalsciences.org or contact Kari Wouk at kari.wouk@naturalsciences.org or 919.707.9879.


Astronomy Days also serves as the launch for “LiftOff NC: Apollo and Beyond.” This series of events celebrates the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon and features festivals, exhibits, lunar- and star-gazing parties, films and documentaries, model rockets, space camps, musical performances, educational programming and fun activities through December 2019.


The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh (11 and 121 W. Jones St.) is an active research institution that engages visitors of every age and stage of learning in the wonders of science and the natural world. Hours: Monday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday, noon–5 p.m. General admission is free. Jason Cryan, PhD, Interim Director. For more information, visit naturalsciences.org.