National Archives Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Alaskan Statehood
Press Release · Monday, November 24, 2008

Washington, DC

NASA “Rocket Scientist” presents program on the science of the Northern Lights

On Thursday, January 29 at noon, the National Archives will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Alaska Statehood with a program on the northern lights. The lecture, presented by NASA astrophysicist, Dr. John Sigwarth, will take place in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, located on the National Mall at Constitution Avenue and 7th Street, NW.

When viewed from Alaska and other northern locations, the aurora borealis, or “northern lights” is a shimmering, ethereal phenomenon that dances in a spectacular burst of colorful light and rapid movement. But what causes it? To find out, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a fleet of satellites and established a network of 20 ground observatories in Canada and Alaska called THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms). Discovering what causes auroras to change will provide scientists with important details on how the planet’s magnetosphere works and the important Sun-Earth connection. Dr. John Sigwarth, will present an illustrated lecture on the THEMIS project, and how the data collected is being used to resolve one of the oldest mysteries of space physics.

Dr. John Sigwarth is an Astrophysicist in the Electrodynamics Branch of the Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Previously, he was a research scientist at the University of Iowa. Dr. Sigwarth helped design and build the robot NASA satellite called Polar. Polar flew in a looping orbit around the Earth and photographed the northern lights -- marking the first time they were captured in space images with such clarity.

The National Archives is fully accessible. To request an accommodation (e.g., sign language interpreter) please e-mail or call 202-357-5000.

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For Press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (202) 357-5300.



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