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April 21, 2015

APL Scientists and Spacecraft Engineers Join Astronomy Day Celebration at Robinson Nature Center

Artist's impression of an ORS Tech CubeSat in orbit.

Space scientists and engineers from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) will share the latest findings and discoveries about current NASA missions to Mercury and Pluto during Astronomy Day at Robinson Nature Center.

Astronomy Day is hosted by the Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks to celebrate the significant discoveries of local space science and engineering organizations in honor of International Astronomy Day. The celebration will take place at the Robinson Nature Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, 2015. All activities are free with general admission to the Nature Center or with an annual pass.

Astronomy Day will feature presentations about MESSENGER, the first spacecraft ever to orbit Mercury; now out of fuel, MESSENGER is scheduled to impact Mercury later this month. Attendees will also learn about the New Horizons spacecraft, which has traveled more than nine years and three billion miles and will fly the closest approach ever to Pluto this July. Both spacecraft were built by APL and are controlled from mission operations centers on the Laboratory’s Laurel, Maryland, campus.

Demonstrations and table-top activities will cover topics such as how meteors are created, the workings of infrared space cameras like those used in the Hubble telescope, and a display of planetary geology. Students and visitors will have a chance to meet and ask questions of these knowledgeable science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals and enjoy other exciting talks by APL scientists sharing information about their investigations of Mars, Venus, Saturn, asteroids, dwarf planets and Earth’s Moon.

“Our team is excited to share what APL is learning from missions currently under way, including MESSENGER’s latest findings about Mercury and the historic flyby of Pluto by our New Horizons spacecraft in July,” said Mike Ryschkewitsch, head of APL’s Space Exploration Sector. “We have a lot of exciting space science to share with those who take part in Astronomy Day events.”

“It is incredible to think how many advances in our knowledge of the farthest reaches of space have been discovered right here in our own backyards,” John Byrd, Director of the Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks said. “We are very excited to get the chance to recognize some of these top-notch research and development organizations like APL at this event.”

Robinson Nature Center is located at 6692 Cedar Lane, Columbia, Maryland. To find out more about the activities occurring on International Astronomy Day, call 410-313-0400.

Media contact: Gina Ellrich, 443-778-7796,

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit

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