Abstract Universe 
Tortoise Tales: Newsletter of the Hi-Desert Nature Museum
Starry Nights Festival
Supernova Explosion in the Small Magellanic Cloud
Celebrate our exceptional sunny days and starry nights at Yucca Valley's 16th annual Starry Nights Festival.  This event will feature presentations by noted astronomers, a twilight reception and evening of stargazing.


Astronomy-themed Science Saturday at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum

11:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Astronomy Lectures in the Yucca Room, 1:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Twilight Reception in the Yucca Room, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.


Stargazing, 8:00 - 10:00 p.m., presented by the Southern California Desert Video Astronomers


Saturday, September 15

Yucca Valley Community Center Complex

Admission is FREE thanks to the generous support of the Andromeda Society and Town of Yucca Valley


Click here to view a full schedule of speakers 

"Bats," Brown Bag Lunch Lecture 

BatDid you know that bats aren't blind, and most bats can see as well as humans?  Join us for a fascinating lecture on bats presented by Rae Packard.  With the generosity of the Town of Yucca Valley, Rae was able to attend Bat World Boot Camp, Texas, in 2003.  Bat Boot Camp is an intensive 60-hour bat rehabilitation program where students learn about bat rescue, species recognition, diagnostics, feeding, orphan care, and other routine therapies.  Rae then became an instructor at Bat World for four years.  Rae's presentation will share her experiences at Bat World, as well as rarely seen photographs of bat rehabilitation, bat colonies and different bat species.  She will also share new information about White Nose Syndrome and its effects on the migrating bats through the Morongo Basin. 


Thursday, August 9, starting at Noon

FREE admission and iced tea will be served 

Art & Culture Wednesday

JapanJapan has developed a rich blend of Asian-influenced traditional culture and Western-influenced modern culture.  From the long history of the Samurai, to the current popularity of anime, during this Art & Culture program children will take a cultural tour of Japan learning about this unique country through images, music and a hands-on crafts.  

Wednesday, August 8

10:00 - 11:00 a.m.

$2 per student at the door, no pre-registration required 

"Is Living Free Always a Good Thing?" Brown Bag Lunch Lecture

Puppy and KittenPacks of wild dogs, as well as colonies of feral cats, roam America's city streets and back country roads.  Lingering on the edge of domestication, they live in dilapidated buildings, old cars and sewers - anywhere that will shelter them from summer's blistering heat or winter's bitter cold.  Some are abandoned pets; others were born on the streets.  In order to survive, these animals have to scavenge garbage or kill wildlife.  Town of Yucca Valley Animal Care and Control Manager Melanie Crider and Animal Control Officer Kim Casey will present a lecture on the Town's Animal Control and Shelter operations, addressing the problems with stray animals, the importance of licensing your dog, and the newly adopted California animal laws.  


Thursday, August 23, starting at Noon

FREE admission and iced tea will be served 

Science Saturdays

FluoriteThis series of programs is designed to ignite curiosity by presenting information and performing experiments relating to biological and physical sciences.  It is recommended that children be of school age for this program.


11:00 - 11:30 a.m.

FREE admission, no pre-registration required 


August 11: Rocks & Minerals

September 1: Genetics & Fingerprints

September 15: Astronomy


Cold-Blooded in the Mojave

Iguanas on CouchesOur desert is teeming with plant and animal life that has adapted to the harsh environment, and reptiles are almost everywhere.  We share our desert with these fascinating creatures but we often overlook them, and many of us know very little about them.  This exhibit will help you discover the world of reptiles - and get ready to be surprised by these amazing cold-blooded animals. 


On display through September 15

Mars Rover Curiosity

Mars Rover CuriositySunday night, August 5th, about 10:30 p.m. Pacific Time the rover "Curiosity" landed on Mars for a two year mission to look for signs of life on the Red Planet.  This one ton rover is equipped with 17 cameras, lasers to break up rock and equipment to gather soil and rock samples to analyze in onboard test chambers.  The spacecraft was designed to steer itself during descent through Mars' atmosphere including the use of heat shields, a supersonic parachute then retro rockets mounted around the rim of an upper stage, which served as a sky crane to lower the rover on a tether to the planet surface.  The mission has been designed to use radio relays via Mars orbiters as the principle means of communication between Curiosity and the Deep Space Network of antennas on Earth.  It takes about 14 minutes for a signal to travel between planets.


Click here to view the NASA website with up-to-date information on this amazing mission


Some people may wonder why the government spends money on space exploration when this planet is faced with so many financial challenges.  NASA has a mandate to distribute their technology as widely as possible, so many commercial companies have taken the research ideas developed by NASA scientists to tackle the obstacles of space travel and incorporated them into mass produced products including cell phones, miniaturized integrated circuits, satellite technology, GPS navigation systems, heart pumps, fire suppression systems, robotics, water filtration systems, and even aluminum foil.  The list goes on and on.  And now commercial companies are preparing to transport humans into space based on NASA's work, including Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.  The one half of 1% of the national budget devoted to NASA may be the best investment we make, providing for long-term, high-dividend research and technology breakthroughs.  Economic growth is driven by technological innovation, and space exploration fuels this innovation.

In This Issue
Starry Nights Festival
Bats Lecture
Art & Culture Wednesday
YV Animal Shelter Lecture
Science Saturdays
Reptile Exhibit
Mars Rover Curiosity
Higgs Boson
Vesta Asteroid
Quick Links
Higgs Boson
Hadron Collider 
Last month scientists announced the existence of the Higgs boson particle.  Why is this a big deal to the study of physics?  Particles are the tiniest objects of nature and studying them helps us understand our universe and how life formed.  A boson is a kind of particle that's even smaller than an atom (called a sub-atomic particle).  Peter Higgs theorized its existence using math in 1964, but it wasn't until this year that the world's largest particle smasher, the Hadron Collider at CERN, proved it really exists.  The Higgs boson particle shows us how things have mass.  Over the years scientists have been able to measure mass and determine what we can do with it, but they couldn't fully explain how objects get mass.  The Higgs boson are carrier particles of the Higgs field which is thought to permeate the universe and give mass to all particles.  The Higgs field is like the wet sand near the surf.  As you walk across the beach grains of sand stick to your feet, and as more sand sticks to you the heavier your feet get.  The amount of "Higgs sand" that attaches to your feet determines your mass.  The Higgs field is everywhere electrons and protons (your feet) can go.  As electrons and protons move, they get bogged down in the boson particles ("sand") of the Higgs field, and that bogging down is mass.
Out beyond the orbit of Mars lie fragments of worlds that might have been.  Back when Earth was still forming and the moon was a molten ball - some 4.5 billion years ago - the chunks of rock and ice there never moved on to bigger things.  The solar system probably would have ended up with a few more planets as large as Earth except Jupiter's immense gravitational sway hurled those building blocks apart before they could come together.  Today more than a million remnants of that stalled genesis survive, making up the ragged asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  About 40% of the belt's total mass is concentrated in just two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta.  In the early 19th century these asteroids were included in texts as planets in our solar system.  Currently Ceres is considered a "dwarf planet." Vesta, slightly smaller, shares many of the geological qualities that define Earth, Mars and other inner planets.  In 2007 the Dawn spacecraft took off on a mission to study these asteroids and in 2011 it settled into orbit around Vesta.  Soon Dawn will make its way to Ceres for a 2 1/2 year exploration mission.  Dawn's discoveries are transforming our understanding of how Earth and other inner planets emerged from the solar system's primordial chaos.

Click here to view info on this project on the NASA/JPL website
Visit the Museum
The Hi-Desert Natuer Museum is located in the Yucca Valley Community Center Complex at 57116 Twentynine Palms Highway.  The museum is open Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Admission is free; donations support the educational mission of the museum.  The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is operated by the Town of Yucca Valley.

View the museum's You Tube video!


For more information on our programs and events contact the museum at (760) 369-7212

or visit our website at www.hidesertnaturemuseum.org 


To view a full schedule of Yucca Valley events, sports programs and recreation classes visit the Town's website at www.yucca-valley.org