Theoretical and Computational Plasma Physics
Department of Physics and Astronomy
West Virginia University
Spark! Imagination and Science Center
Paul Cassak partners with Spark! Imagination and Science Center. He has served as a science adviser on exhibits and signage, participated in special events including "Science Day" and "Space Day" at the museum and "Science Night" at schools in West Virginia, and helped construct and deliver science kits about space weather to elementary schools in McDowell County, Braxton County, and Webster County, West Virginia. [Image from https://sparkwv.org.]
The Space Weather Exhibit
Spark! Imagination and Science Center and Paul Cassak developed a unique, hands-on exhibit called "Space Weather"
What Is it? - The Space Weather Exhibit, one of the only museum exhibits in the world solely on Space Weather! And it's completely hands-on!
Where Is It? - Only at Spark! Imagination and Science Center (formerly called the Children's Discovery Museum of West Virginia)
What Is In The Exhibit? -
A large Plasma Ball - learn about the super-hot fourth state of matter that makes up most of the sun, the stars, and space. Make it move with your hands!
Play with Horseshoe Magnets - feel the magnetic force. This same force is a crucial aspect of space weather!
Visualize Magnetic Fields - see what magnetic field lines look like in 3D! Earth's magnetic field looks similar!
See a Lifesize Replica of a NASA Satellite - a model of a satellite in NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission. It's complete with many of the instruments on the real satellite. This completely unique piece was made by a school group from Paw Paw, WV, and was brought to Florida for the launch of the satellites in 2015!
Experience Virtual Reality - put on goggles and feel like you're standing in space! You will see the MMS satellite and hear about the mission. The MMS satellites were designed to study magnetic reconnection, a key aspect of space weather!
Take the Astronaut Challenge! - dress up as a NASA astronaut and pretend you are assembling parts on the International Space Station! Also, feel how heavy a jar would weigh on other planets in our solar system. Astronauts have to be wary of space weather, as they can get harmed by the powerful radiation from solar storms.
Watch Aurora in a Bottle - learn what causes the northern and southern lights, also known as aurora, by making aurora in a bottle! This device, called a terrella, was designed and created at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and lets you shoot electrons at a magnet to see how aurora happens. Aurora naturally occurs during space weather events.
Learn about Space Weather - panels describe what space weather is and how everyone is affected by it. You will also learn about space weather research being done in West Virginia!
The exhibit was funded by generous support from West Virginia University (WVU), the WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy, the National Science Foundation (NSF Grants AGS-0953463 and AGS-1460037), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA Grants NNX16AF60G and NNX16AL15G), and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
It was created as a partnership between Spark! Imagination and Science Center (formerly the Children's Discovery Museum of West Virginia), the Department of Physics and Astronomy at WVU, and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction/Literacy Studies at WVU. [Image from P. Cassak.]
Paul Cassak contributed graphics to a planetarium movie on magnetism produced by the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Rice University, and Evans & Sutherland. The movie is called "Magnetism - Defending Our Planet, Defining The Cosmos". [Image from http://mms.rice.edu/mms/mms_planetarium_show.php]
Public Outreach Presentations
Paul Cassak often gives outreach talks. Examples are to the WVU Astronomy Club in 2017 (pictured above) and 2015, NASA Headquarters Heliophysics Carnival in 2017, the Pulsar Search Collaboratory in 2013 and 2010 (the 2010 talk was called "The Sun and Space Weather"), the Kanawha Valley Astronomical Society in 2010 and 2008, and Hood College in 2005 for the Hood College World Year of Physics Lecture Series. [Image Credit: Askar Salikhov/THE DAILY ATHENAEUM, https://www.thedaonline.com/news/professor-talks-sun-s-effect-on-earth-at-meeting/article_7eaae91a-ed59-11e4-9c93-5ff18b666a73.html]
NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission Outreach
Paul Cassak participated in the NASA MMS Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission Prelaunch Press Briefing, February 25, 2015, and the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale MMS Mission Science Briefing, March 12, 2015. [Image courtesty of NASA.]
The Tale of Magnetic Reconnection (A Poem)
by Paul Cassak, written June 2016 for the CEDAR/GEM Student Day