Library introduces exoplanet exhibition

A kiosk allows visitors to examine the features of exoplanets and even create their own solar system.

The Cottage Grove Public Library has successfully launched into the first month of its newest exhibition, Discover Exoplanets: The Search for Alien Worlds, a national traveling exhibition developed by the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning.

“It’s a free-standing exhibit that tells the story of NASA’s search for exoplanets,” said the library’s Community Services Director Pete Barrell.

Surrounded by informational stands, four interactive kiosks invite users to learn about planets outside our own solar system on touch-screen interfaces.

“They’re very user-friendly,” said Barrell. “Kids love it.”

The kiosks allow visitors to learn about planetary transits, experiment with the electromagnetic spectrum and create their own solar systems in a series of intuitive programs.

“A person could spend an hour here easily,” said Barrell.

The exhibit continues until April 20.

Sponsored by NASA, the exhibit was granted to the library in a competitive selection process.

“I think about 150 libraries applied and eight were selected to host it in the whole nation,” said Barrell.

Barrell wrote the grant that caught NASA’s eye, but it’s not the first time the Cottage Grove library has pulled in exhibits from the agency.

“I wrote my first NASA grant for this library about eight years ago and we’ve had three or four major exhibits like this,” said Barrell. “We have a pretty good relationship with NASA now, so when they see our grant coming, they know that we can pull off the exhibit and do cool programming and make it happen.”

This year’s grant award lead to a unique collaboration between the library and Eugene Science Center in which different versions of the same exhibit are on display at both venues.

“That was NASA’s idea,” Barrell said. “They thought it would be cool to get libraries and museums to partner. … So if someone comes here, they should really go there to see the other half.”

The library is encouraging youth to get the full experience with two field trips planned for elementary-aged children and teens, providing a free trip to the Eugene exhibit to those who sign up. The first trip for children aged seven to 12 takes place on Feb. 12 and the other for teens March 2.

Locally, the exhibit has attracted attention as well. “We’ve had quite a bit of field trip action,” said Barrell. “More than some of the other exhibits.”

The library is also hosting its own film festival for the duration of the exhibit, presenting a different science fiction film each Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m.

Other events planned over the next two months include exoplanet discussions with the Wisdom Seekers, a lecture on exoplanets by local astronomer Steve Kilston and a closing space-themed dance party for all ages on the exhibit’s final day.

A schedule of events and more information can be found at www.cottagegrove.org/library/page/discover-exoplanets-new-exhibit-nasa.

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