Press Release

Maryland Girl Scouts Learn About Supernovas and Black Holes With NASA

By SpaceRef Editor
June 9, 2005
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Girl Scouts in Maryland are teaming up with astronomers to learn about their connection to the stars, at a day-long NASA-sponsored event on the Johns Hopkins University campus on Saturday, June 11.

Scouts from five Maryland counties will build astronomy instruments and participate in lessons about black holes and supernovas. The event is called “Big Explosions and Strong Gravity” and targets girls in middle school.

“We want to get girls involved in science right at that age when they start thinking science isn’t cool,” said meeting co-organizer Dr. Ann Hornschemeier of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “We have an entire day planned with fun and challenging activities. Our goal is to create a safe haven for learning.”

Dr. Hornschemeier expects upwards of 80 girls from Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Prince Georges and Carroll counties, including many girls from inner-city Baltimore.

The day will be divided into four main activities. In the morning, the girls will build spectrometers, which are devices to analyze light. They will use their instruments to observe the Sun (weather permitting) and special light bulbs. The goal is to learn about how chemical elements like hydrogen and neon can emit light, and how a rainbow is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The girls will next learn how chemical elements necessary for life are created in stars and star explosions. In the afternoon, the girls will learn about black holes and supernovas.

“The afternoon will be lots of fun because we get the girls to simulate a star explosion and act out the roles of stars and black holes in orbit around each other,” said Dr. James Lochner, a co-organizer and an educational and public outreach specialist at NASA Goddard.

Dr. Lochner said the girls also learn how scientists can study chemical elements in supernovas and the fate of matter near black holes with X-ray telescopes such as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The event will take place at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The news media are welcome to attend. The “Big Explosions and Strong Gravity” project is sponsored by an educational and public outreach grant from the NASA Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

For more information, contact Dr. Hornschemeier directly at 301-286-7632 or

SpaceRef staff editor.