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Space Science Events

Starry Nights

2018 Dates and Times:

Dates Observing Event
January 5 6 - 8 p.m. First Friday - Lunar Eclipse Preview
January 31 5 - 7 a.m. Super Blue Moon Eclipse
February 2 6 - 8 p.m. First Friday - Da Vinci: Preview
March 2 7 - 9 p.m. First Friday - Da Vinci: Anatomy
April 6 8 - 9 p.m. First Friday - Da Vinci: Flight
April 18 8 - 9 p.m. Sandia Mt. Stargazing
May 4 8:30 - 9 p.m. First Friday - Da Vinci: Futurist
June 1 8:30 - 9 p.m. First Friday - Da Vinci: Technology
June 30 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Asteroid Day
July 6 8:30 - 9 p.m. First Friday - Da Vinci: Earh Sci.
August 3 8:30 - 9 p.m. First Friday: Mars Close Encounter
September 7 8 - 9 p.m. First Friday
September 12 8 - 9 p.m. Sandia Mt. Stargazing
September 21 TBA Plutopalooza
October 5 7 - 9 p.m. First Friday
October 20 TBA Intl. Observe the Moon Night
November 2 7 - 9 p.m. First Friday
November 26 TBA InSight Lands on Mars
December 7 6 - 8 p.m. Old Town Holiday Stroll

In 2018, we're offering monthly night-sky observing opportunities to coincide with museum, local, or international events.  More specific information about each activity will be updated below as the day draws closer.  These events are subject to change and may happen at locations other than the museum.
Members of local astronomy groups will help you study the moon and stars through a variety of telescopes. Each event will feature any visible planets and other interesting objects in the sky.
The observing part of any event may be canceled when the sky is cloudy.  If weather conditions are in question, check the museum's Facebook page for updates an hour before each event is scheduled to begin:

Upcoming Events

August 3, 2018 - 5:30pm

In the coming weeks, the planet Mars will be closer to the Earth than it will be for the decades. For the First Friday on August 3, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science will offer information about the Red Planet and a possibility to see it through telescopes. With the extension of Da Vinci — The Genius, this will also be the final First Friday offering reduced admission prices before the exhibition ends.

On August 3 from 5:30 – 9 p.m., admission to Da Vinci — The Genius is discounted by $5, making the final admission charge: Adults $17, Seniors $15 & Children $10. Admission to the museum’s permanent exhibits (excluding Da Vinci — The Genius), is $5 per person, a $3 savings off the usual adult price.

Da Vinci – The Genius demonstrates the full scope of Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable genius as an inventor, artist, anatomist, sculptor, engineer, musician, and architect. Guests will enjoy many unique pieces including life-size machine inventions, entertaining animations of da Vinci’s most notable Renaissance works, and an eye-opening, in-depth analysis of his most famous piece, “Mona Lisa.” Visitors will be able to push, pull, crank, and interact with many of these exhibits for a hands-on understanding of the scientific principles behind them. The exhibition has been extended until August 29, 2018.

“The orbits of Earth and Mars are not perfect circles, so the distance between the two planets is not the same when they reach their closest positions,” explains NMMNHS space science director Jim Greenhouse. “At 35,785,000 miles on July 30, this is the closest Mars has been since 2003 or will be until 2050, although it will be almost as close a few times before then.”

Astronomers were looking forward to this close separation of the planets as an opportunity to see Mars’ surface in greater detail through telescopes. However, an unprecedented dust storm is currently blocking most of the surface from view, making the planet look like a featureless orange orb. It remains to be seen if the storm will clear in time for the close approach.

In case Mars’ atmosphere does clear, several telescopes will be available in front of the museum. Representatives from the Albuquerque Astronomical Society and Rio Rancho Astronomical Society will offer telescopic views of the Red Planet if the sky is clear. Both clubs will also have table displays inside the museum telling about their programs. Additionally, those who purchase admission to the da Vinci exhibition will be able to look through the observatory telescope. Because the planets move so slowly relative to each other, the view of Mars between July 30 and August 3 will be the same. The observing part of this event will be canceled if the sky is cloudy.

Even if the planet’s surface can’t be seen through telescopes, several table displays in the museum atrium will offer timely information about Mars on August 3 only:

  • Dr. Larry Crumpler will explain the latest information from the Opportunity Rover and how the dust storm has put the mission in jeopardy;
  • UNM Institute of Meteoritics will show a very rare meteorite which originated on Mars and explain how a piece of that planet made it to ours;
  • Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument will show how they received a Dark Sky Park designation and preview upcoming night sky programs;
  • NASA Solar System Ambassador John Brandt will share videos and handouts about the Mars InSight mission, which is the latest Martian lander. Find out more from NASA’s webpage:

The DynaTheater will be showing America’s Musical Journey. In America’s musical cities, every chord, every riff, every bang of a drum tells a story. These stories come together to create a soundtrack for the American experience — a soundtrack that showcases the nation’s diversity and its collision of cultures, culminating in a unique blend of sound, music and innovation unlike anywhere else in the world. During First Friday, admission to this program is $5 per person. The show begins at 6:30 p.m. and lasts one hour. The DynaTheater concession stand will be open before the showing and close when the video begins.

The Planetarium will present Fractal Friday at the usual times of 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. with the normal admission of: Adults $10, Seniors $7 & Children (3-12) $5. Shows typically sell out in advance, so get your tickets early on the Fractal Foundation’s website:

The Nature Works store will be selling fascinating da Vinci merchandise and other unique gifts from 5:30 – 8 p.m. The Hope Café will be open continuously from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. that day, so you can enjoy dinner while waiting for the museum to reopen (only the café entrance will be open from 5 – 5:30).

Crack the da Vinci code and get a special discount! A word based upon a da Vinci invention will unlock a 10 percent discount on a da Vinci audio tour when deliberately said at the tour rental kiosk. The code word for August is “Scafandro.”

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