|June 27, 2012
Astronomy education project at Veterans Oasis Park to be dedicated July 7
The Chandler Solar System Walk, a privately funded educational project designed to promote astronomy to visitors at Veterans Oasis Park, will be dedicated on Saturday, July 7, 2012. The public ceremony will begin at 8 a.m. on the sidewalk near the northwest corner of the lake in the park, which is located at 4050 E. Chandler Heights Road.
The ceremony location marks the beginning of the walk, which is a series of stone monuments and interpretive signs representing the sun, eight planets and other significant objects in our solar system. The signs are placed along the 2,500-foot pathway that surrounds the lake at distances that are relative to the scale of the solar system. Every foot traveled on the pathway represents 1.5 million miles in space. For example, while 93 million miles separates the earth from the sun, the actual distance within the park is 62 feet.
The signs include information about the planets, including their axis tilt, diameter, mass, rotation period, orbit around the sun, and known moons. There are also references to the ancient cultures that first studied the night sky, and the mythologies they created about the planets and stars. In all, there are 14 signs, with the sun and eight planets placed in stone monuments. There are also signs mounted on metal posts that highlight an introduction to the walk, the creation of the solar system, the asteroid belt, dwarf planets, and outer solar system objects such as comets.
“The Solar System Walk will be a nice addition to Veterans Oasis Park,” said Chandler Naturalist Sandy Munoz-Weingarten, who manages the EEC and oversees the operations at the park. “Our focus here at the EEC is on nature and our relationship with the environment. If you spend any time outdoors at night it’s only natural to look up at the stars and wonder about earth’s place in the solar system.”
The Chandler Solar System Walk is the result of a public-private partnership between the City’s Recreation and Parks divisions, the East Valley Astronomy Club (EVAC), and the family of Howard Israel. Israel, 78, is an avid amateur astronomer and past vice president of EVAC, a group which conducts Star Parties at Veterans Oasis Park. He was the first astronomy instructor at the park’s Environmental Education Center (EEC) when it opened four years ago.
Israel was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer last year and is currently at home under hospice care. His family and friends wanted to honor him with a legacy project at Veterans Oasis Park that would continue his longtime efforts to further the public’s understanding of science and astronomy. Over several months, they raised more than $25,000 to design and construct the project, and to support additional astronomy activities at the EEC in the future.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the outpouring of support for the project, especially from people who do not know Howard, but who share his passion for astronomy education,” said Israel’s daughter, Sharyn Younger of Chandler. “When we began, our goal was to get everything done while my father was still alive to see people, especially children, experiencing the walk. Thanks to our donors and project partners, we’ve been able to get the work completed quickly, and he will be attending the dedication ceremony on July 7th.”
Younger said that the best project outcome the family could hope for would be that those who experience the Solar System Walk will be motivated to ask more questions and seek more answers. “My father has always been curious and passionate about discovery,” Younger said. “In recent years he’s been devoted to teaching others what he has learned about the cosmos, and doing it in ways that made them excited about astronomy, too. That is truly his gift, and I think this Walk will be a lasting tribute to that legacy.”
More information about the Solar System Walk is available online at www.chandlersolarsystemwalk.com.