Volume 2, Issue 2  /  September 2013 

A Letter from Executive Director, Cynthia Randall


Passion, Joy and the Thrill of the Challenge:  The Driving Forces of Scientific Knowledge

Over the past several months you have been reading, my thoughts, about science literacy, its role in our communities and society, and programs we offer to our public libraries around the state - all with the expressed goal to connect people to the amazing, motivating and meaningful qualities of science.  What a more perfect venue, than within the Cornerstones Newsletter, to extend this connection to, you, the readers.  Throughout the year, Cornerstones will invite a diverse array of scientists, authors, librarians and amateur scientists to contribute their observations, compelling points of view and personal connections to science within the Letter From The Executive Director.  Why?  Because I would like to introduce you to some truly amazing people, consider other points of view and highlight what drives them in their fields of study and how science is interwoven into their daily lives.  Readers will quickly understand the driving forces that compel them, as well as the rest of us, is passion, joy and thrill of the challenge to make sense of the natural and physical world around us.  That is the basis of building scientific knowledge and Cornerstones programs.
It is my honor to introduce our first contributor Joan Chamberlin.  For me, her love for astronomy epitomizes the passion, joy and thrill of the challenge to understand our universe. 


Have you ever wished you could go back in time to see what the universe looked like in the past?  Well, you are doing that when you look into the sky, where light takes time to come to you.   The moon, for example is about 240,000 miles away; it takes light about 1.3 seconds to travel from there to here.  If a giant asteroid hit the moon, we wouldn’t see the explosion until 1.3 seconds later.  Light from the sun, which is about 93 million miles away, takes 8 minutes to reach us, so it is 8 minutes old.   Light, the fastest thing in the universe, travels 186,000 miles in one second.  A light year is a measure of distance, not time; it’s the distance light travels in one year, which is about 6 trillion miles.  We can say that the sun is 8 light minutes away from us, and the moon is 1.3 light seconds from us.   Light from the planets in our solar system are light minutes or light hours away, depending on the planet’s distance from us.  When you look at these objects, you are seeing them as they were minutes or hours ago.  Your eyes have become a time machine.
All of the stars in the night sky are part of our Milky Way Galaxy.  The nearest star is 4 light years away, 24 trillion miles from us.  It takes light 4 years to cover that distance, so we see that star as it looked 4 years ago.  Other stars are hundreds or thousands of light years from us. Some may have burned out since the light you now see left there so long ago.  We may see a star as it appeared in 1776, when our country became independent and another as it was in 2560 BC during the building of the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza.  Each star in the sky represents a completely different point in time.  Large telescopes can see galaxies billions of light years away and so we see them as they looked back then, giving us a snapshot of the early universe.
Here is a link to find your birthday star, a star whose light left that star on the day you were born and is now reaching your eyes.   You can find your birthday star and then come back a month or two later and your birth star will be another one.
Now, when you look at stars in the night sky, remember you are seeing them as they were in the past.  Your eyes and telescopes are time machines transporting you into the past.
Joan Chamberlin, an amateur astronomer from Astronomical Society of Northern New England, Kennebunk, Maine, USA & Southern Maine Astronomers, Portland, Maine. She is also NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador for the state of Maine in USA and a retired special education teacher. She is also a member of Astronomers Without Borders.  You can contact Joan at starladyjoan@yahoo.com

Cornerstones News


Two New Members of the Library Telescope Family

Cornerstones is proud to welcome two new libraries into the Library Telescope Program family.  Both Orr’s Island Library and Swan’s Island Library have just received their own Orion Telescopes that they will soon be making available to their patrons. The telescopes are part of the highly successful Cornerstones Library Telescope Program that began in June of 2012.  You can visit our website to learn more about the program. 

In the News


Robotics Train-the-Trainer Workshop

Hosted by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Robotics, with funding from the Maine Girls Collaborative Project, interested parties are invited to sign-up for a Robotics Train-the-Trainer Workshop.  The workshop will be held on September 9th at the  University of Maine Regional Learning Center in Falmouth.  The cost is free but enrollment is limited. Learn more.

In the Spotlight


The Acadia Night Sky Festival

When: September 26-30
Where: Bar Harbor, Maine

The Acadia Night Sky Festival is a community celebration to promote the protection and enjoyment of Downeast Acadia’s night sky as a valuable natural resource through education, science, and the arts.  Acadia National Park is the only national park in the northeast that provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy a high-quality night sky and natural darkness, similar to that found at more remote national parks in the West.  The Acadia Night Sky Festival features art, music, science, poetry, and stargazing events throughout the communities surrounding Acadia National Park.  Learn more 
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Book Recommendations


Night Sky: watching the universe outside your window

by Giles Sparrow

Loaded with great imagery and informative text, this book helps readers identify particular constellations, recognize the difference between a star and a planet, and understand why the entire sky appears to spin. Reader will learn about the life cycles of stars, how comets and asteroids are formed and all about nebula.  For ages 8 and up.

STARDUST TO PLANETS: A Geological Tour of the Solar System

Stardust to Planets takes a look at space from a geological perspective and covers a variety of issues that we might otherwise never consider.  Topics are varied and include the mysteries of volcanism on Neptune's moon Triton, the creation of diamonds in supernovas, the fate of Mars's once-abundant water and the mineralogy of planetary rings.

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Websites of the Month

Investigating Gravitational Lenses, Black Holes and Our Solar System


Interested in a little space oriented citizen science?  The Spacewarps project might be up your alley.  Participants can help discover new instances of Gravitational Lensing caused by galaxies, or clusters of galaxies, which bends light and magnifies objects that would otherwise be hidden.  Visit the site, establish your profile and help scientists find undiscovered Gravitational Lenses!


Black Holes – National Geographic

What is a black hole? How is it able to keep light from escaping?  This site explains how a black hole is the last stage in the lifetime of a star.  Readers will learn that as black holes acquire more matter, they become more and more dense.  The site provides a good and relatively brief explanation of the nature of black holes.


The Space Place: Solar System

The Space Place: Solar System is a child oriented website that includes a number of opportunities to Explore, Do and Play.  The Explore portion of the site allows visitors to learn about space, comets and meteors.  The Do portion of the site instructs you on how to make Moon Cookies, Eatable Asteroids or build a model Moon Habitat.  Lastly, the Play portion of the site allows you to play mini games and find space apps for you IPhone or IPad.

Library Partners


Shaw Public Library – Greenville, Maine

John Conrad, NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador will be presenting scientific evidences and causes of Global Warming on September 7 at 6:30 at the Shaw Public Library.   You can contact the library at 695-3579 for more information.

Save the Date

Science Café - Anti-aging Strategies to Increase Human Health and Lifespan

Presented by:   Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory
Date:                  September 9, 2013 @  5:00 p.m.
Location:           Asticou Inn, Northeast Harbor

Aric Rogers, assistant professor in MDIBL's Davis Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine, will talk about Anti-aging Strategies to Increase Human Health and Lifespan.   Learn more.

What Does it Mean to Learn Science in the 21st Century

When:  September 12, 2013 (doors open at 6:30 pm) 
Cost:  Free, open to the public
Location:  Gulf of Maine Research Institute, 350 Commercial Street, Portland

The second in a series of public presentations about what it means to learn science, and how this is changing in the 21st century.   Join GMRI for "Neurological Implications for How Kids Learn" presented by Christopher Kaufman, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Kaufman Psychological Services, P.C. 

Seating is limited. Please register online or contact Christina Traister by email or at 207-228-1622 with any questions. This free event will be from 7 to 8 p.m.; doors open at 6:30 p.m. Free parking is available.
awakening curiosity, enriching lives