Explore Asteroid Vesta, STARLAB, DNA & Wildman Phil’s creatures March 23 at Astronomy Night

By Tom Di Camillo

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. - Join Central Arizona College's Dr. Wayne Pryor as he takes visitors on a journey to Asteroid Vesta this Friday, March 23, in the final Astronomy Night at the Peak event for 2011-12.

The event will run from 4:30-9:30 p.m. at CAC's Signal Peak Campus located between the cities of Coolidge and Casa Grande just east of I-10 at the McCartney Road exit.

Naturalist/Humorist Wildman Phil Rakoci and his collection of desert critters also returns to Central Arizona College's Astronomy Night at the Peak with two of his entertaining presentations as well as open time to get up close and personal with his eclectic mix of pets.

CAC's biology professors will provide visitors with an opportunity to learn more about DNA, while Katy Wilkins and STARLAB also return with presentations throughout the evening.

There is no charge for any of the family-oriented events.

In addition, CAC and Sodexho, the food service provider for the college, again are teaming up to offer an evening of affordable family dining under the constellations of the Arizona evening sky.

Dinner will be served from 5-6 p.m. at the Central Arizona College Dining Hall. The dining hall is located on the second floor of the Mel A. Everingham Student Center adjacent to The Green near the entrance to the campus.

Dinner is $5.57 plus tax per person for everyone and is served buffet style. The menu includes hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, chicken nuggets, French fries, macaroni and cheese, a salad bar, self-serve ice cream and dessert stations, and a choice of beverages.

The evening begins at 4:30 p.m. when Don Manack opens the Student Art Gallery (Building N) from 4:30-6 p.m. to showcase the tremendous work of Central Arizona College's student artists.
From 5-7 p.m., the Peaks Performers Concert will take place featuring a variety of solo acts, including J.D. Mercado, Jake Colwell, Ben Blount and Ashley Brown. The show will be held outside the M Building for guests en route to the Astronomy Night.
Wildman Phil will display his critters from 6-8:30 p.m. in T-116, with his unique and comical 30-minute presentations taking place at 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.

Known for his blend of humor and nature, Rakoci's iconic programs are filled with fun and facts as he expertly combines hands-on demonstrations with lessons featuring:

• Respect for wildlife and the environment
• Animal defenses and their roles
• Ways to identify dangerous creatures and harmless animals
• Separation of fact and fiction in the world of spiders, scorpions, lizards, snakes, and other such creatures
• Life cycles and the web of life.

Check out Rakoci's website at http://www.desertwildlife.net/.

Wilkins will inflate STARLAB, the indoor planetarium that provides a detailed view of the nighttime sky. The dean of students at Toltec Middle School, Wilkins will offer her ongoing presentations inside M101 from 6-9 p.m.

"My public presentations usually consist of some short stories and how to locate constellations and some other interesting facts," she said.

STARLAB will be set up in the Student Services Building (Clock Tower). The inflatable planetarium was purchased when Central Arizona College's SEMAA (Science Engineering Mathematics Aerospace Academy) program was being offered on campus.

Adjacent to the STARLAB presentation will be CAC's Visual Arts Gallery that will be open to the public throughout the evening.

When the sun starts to set, Pryor will present Exploring Asteroid Vesta and discuss NASA's Dawn mission that has been orbiting Vesta since July 16, 2011.

Vesta is one of the largest known asteroids and measures some 330 miles across. Pryor will explain what scientists have learned and answer questions such as - Could astronauts refuel there?

Dawn's advanced propulsion system will later take it to Ceres, an even larger asteroid, in 2015. Ceres may have more water than the whole Earth, but it remains unexplored.

CAC's biology professors will open up the science labs for an interactive and family fun program entitled Got DNA?

For more information on the Astronomy Night at the Peak event, please call 520-494-5202, or e-mail Tom Di Camillo at tom.dicamillo@centralaz.edu.

Central Arizona College - District Office 8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge, AZ 85128 Phone: 800-237-9814