Feb 27 - Spheres of Education

One of the newer attractions here in the Rockport/Fulton area is the Bay Education Center. Completed just over a year ago, it's the facility at which the public connects up with something called The Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve.

From their website:
The mission of the Mission-Aransas Reserve is to develop and facilitate partnerships that enhance coastal decision making through an integrated program of research, education, and stewardship. This mission allows us to achieve our vision of forming a center of excellence that creates and disseminates knowledge necessary to maintain healthy Texas coasts. The Reserve has three primary goals: (1)to improve knowledge of Texas coastal zone ecosystems structure and function, (2) to promote understanding of coastal ecosystems by diverse audiences, and (3) to promote public appreciation and support for stewardship of coastal resources.

And from the Bay Education Center website:
Whether you live in the area or are just visiting, this new addition to South Texas is a ‘must see’ and is free and open to the public, Tuesday through Saturday, 1-4 pm, with daily presentations at 2 and 3 pm. So many of us are drawn to the local estuaries, but know little about the important role they play in our ecology. The Bay Education Center provides the visitor with an innovative way of exploring and learning about these important bodies of water and the life they support. Step inside the exhibit hall to be serenaded by the sounds of an estuary, and greeted by a life-sized Whooping Crane and giant oyster. Stroll at your leisure to enjoy our hands-on exhibits and check out the current water quality in our bays. An added attraction is Science On a Sphere®, a spherical display system created by NOAA to illustrate Earth science concepts to people of all ages. Stop by for a visit and it will be an experience that will inspire new appreciation and knowledge of the world around you.

We found the "Science On a Sphere" presentations particularly interesting as we've never seen this projection technology in use before. The center of the room is dominated by a 6 foot sphere hanging from the ceiling. It's painted white, doesn't move, and serves as a screen. Four projectors, controlled by a computer, project images, onto the sphere making it come alive as the earth, the moon, or any other celestial orb. The images are specially processed photos or "data-sets" that can be static or they can move, making the object appear to be spinning just as if the observer is in orbit above the surface of a planet. As mentioned in the paragraph above, the Center puts together hour long public presentations that focus on various aspects of the planets, and the earth's atmosphere, oceans, or land. Perhaps because it's something new and different, we found it a good way to spend an hour learning a little more about our world.

There are only 80 of these "Science On a Sphere" systems installed worldwide... about 50 of them in the United States. I'm not sure how they did it, but little old sleepy Rockport Texas was somehow able to snag one of them.

The Big Blue Marble... Earth... seen from space. All history, good and bad times, happiness, wars, empathy, and hatred are contained on the surface of this spaceship earth. You'd think we'd figure out how to live together peacefully... since this is all we've got. If we screw this up, there are no alternatives.

Slightly Better than Most