Geophysical Institute offers aurora information, shows at Pioneer Park
Submitted by Kat Bernhardt
The aurora isn't visible during Fairbanks summers--until now.
This summer, scientists from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are providing free daily aurora shows and information at Pioneer Park.
Shows and general information are available at the institute's Aurora Borealis Cabin, located on the east side of the park, from noon to 8 p.m. each day through Sept. 1. Some days, scientist Karen Remick will give a four-minute aurora presentation. On other days, the show runs on a continuous loop with Remick's voice-over that explains how the aurora is created, why its color varies and other interesting aurora facts. This is Remick's second summer at the Aurora Borealis Cabin.
In addition to the cabin, aurora movies will be shown on select dates in an inflatable Aurora Dome in the Pioneer Park Civic Center this summer. Inside the Aurora Dome, visitors may watch aurora footage projected overhead while Geophysical Institute scientists provide commentary. The experience is similar to that of a small planetarium and up to 45 visitors can fit into the Aurora Dome at a time. Aurora Dome shows are scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. July 4 and 20, Aug. 16, and Sept. 1. Shows run about every 15 minutes.
The Pioneer Park shows provide the university an opportunity to educate locals and visitors alike about aurora science. The experience also is meant to gauge public interest in erecting a permanent planetarium-like facility inside the park that would cater to the aurora enthusiast. Representatives from the Geophysical Institute and the Fairbanks North Star Borough's Parks and Recreation Department are collaborating in an effort to construct what they've dubbed an aurorium within the park. This aurorium would provide a convenient and warm alternative for viewing the northern lights and would be open year-round to the public.
Preliminary data demonstrates there is support for such an attraction in the park. More than 3,000 people visited the Aurora Borealis Cabin during the summer of 2007. Many opted to take an official survey on the matter and 99 percent of the respondents said they would visit a local aurorium, should it be constructed in the park.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos are available upon request.