Using a plastic tube, cardboard tube and a lens, 10-year-old Nathan McLain of Tyler made a telescope during Wednesday's session of a space camp at the Center for Earth & Space Science on the Tyler Junior College main campus.

"I like that we get to try new and different things that we don't usually get to try and I like building stuff," Nathan, a fifth grader, said.

He is spending his spring break attending the camp because he loves science and anything that involves science.

"I think it's really cool since we get to go to the planetarium and watch different shows and also we get to try different things I don't get to try anywhere else," he said.

Caleb Hernandez, 8, a Van second grader also attending the camp, said he likes that he "gets to create stuff that we never did before and we get to learn about stuff that we never heard about."

Isabelle Stanford, 9, a Van third grader, said, "I've learned about planets and stars. I learned that telescopes can be really big and really small and that the bigger the glass lens, the better you can see."

The youngsters are being exposed to the mysteries of the solar system, the marvelous sights that can be seen through telescopes and the wonders of space flight during the space camp.

"I make a different theme for each day," coordinator Brian Kremer said of the camp for second- through fifth-graders on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

As an introduction to the solar system on the first day of the camp, children watched planetarium shows about tours of the solar system that talked about the different planets and different moons.

Afterward, Kremer took them on a tour of the night sky throughout the entire year, showing them constellations they can expect to see in the spring, summer and fall. He told them how to find different constellations and interesting facts about them.

Answering a question often raised by children, Kremer talked about why Pluto is no longer considered a planet. The reason was that in 2006 scientists came up with three rules that a space object must meet to be considered a planet and Pluto does not meet one, Kremer said. It was reclassified as a dwarf planet.

Kremer explained the different types of planets within the solar system - some like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars being terrestrial or rocky planets with a surface that someone can stand on while other planets like Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus are big balls of gas.

Ancient people 3,000 or 4,000 years ago knew the planets were different from stars because the stars stay in the same spot but planets move in relation to the background of stars, Kremer said.

They named planets after a Greek word meaning wanderer because the planets wander throughout the sky whereas the stars seem to stay still, he said.

Kremer said he hopes the camp participants gain an understanding of the solar system and planets and the differences between planets and why scientists study them.

Wednesday's camp sessions focused on the different types of telescopes, how they work and what they are used for. Campers built their own telescope to take home as a souvenir.

"Telescopes are just receptacles for different types of light and different light waves," Kremer said, noting use of telescopes is how man knows about everything in the universe. "The vast majority of astronomy is study of light coming from distant objects, he said.

On Friday, Kremer plans to talk about technology to get into space and technology used once man is in space.

The session will cover rockets, the Apollo mission that went to the moon and the push to go back to the moon as well as to Mars. Students will build their own rockets.

Discussing how things fly, Kremer said he would talk about different rockets and staging, in which part of a rocket runs out of fuel, detaches and falls back to earth.

The space shuttle had stages like two solid rocket boosters on the side of the fuel tank. They would drop off when out of fuel and the shuttle would continue on into space, Kremer said in an interview.

Kremer said he hopes campers will gain a basic understanding of flight and rockets and why space flight is hard. Man has not gone to the stars because they are too far away, he said.

The fastest thing humans have ever made is the Voyager spacecraft that travels about 40,000 miles per hour. "At that rate, to get to the closest star would take about 80,000 years," Kremer said.

 

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