Visuals have power. Jon Hutman has seen that phenomenon in action the last two years he has hosted Centennial Family Science Night in Ahwatukee.
Words can be used to describe the wonders of our solar system and the universe, but when you are dealing with middle school students, or even some adults, pictures they can look at and objects they can hold tell them a different story.
Hutman gained certifications with NASA to not just be the guardian of rocks, which have origins from more than 200,000 miles away, but also pictures that were sent electronically from tens of millions of miles away.
The moon rocks, collected during the Apollo missions, and hi-resolution images of the Mars surface, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, along with many other science and space-based materials, will be on display at the third annual Centennial Family Science Night at Kyrene Centennial Middle School, 13808 S. 36th St., Tuesday, Jan. 10, starting at 5 p.m.
"To be able to show these kids actual scientific things that have come down from space is just awesome," Hutman said. "My goal is to hopefully get them interested enough to want to pursue a career in science."
Hutman has partnered with Arizona State University and the School of Earth and Space Exploration to bring in educational displays, including a 360-degree portable planetarium.
"The planetarium shows stars, constellations, moon phases, planetary comparisons - there are weeks of stuff you can do in that thing," he said. "We show students what it would look like from Phoenix with light pollution, and then darken the whole dome and see what would be visible without it."
The images of the Martian surface originated from the Mars Odyssey Mission THEMIS, and have been blown up into poster-sized images, which show an 18 kilometer-by-18 kilometer section of the surface.
"The thing about Mars that kids really get into is when you talk about the similarities it could have with our own planet," Hutman said. "It really gets them thinking about what could have been. And when they see these images this year, I will definitely be encouraging them to think more about it."
Centennial Family Science Night takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. and is open to the public.
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