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Crime Scene Science: The Modern Methods for Solving Crimes

Join our CSI 101 Workshops at The Mind Museum!

April 8, 2014 For ages 10 - 13

April 11 - 13, 2014 For ages 14 - 17

Registration Process

1.  Register your children for your chosen programs.

2.  Deposit the requested donation at the BPI or Unionbank nearest you or drop by the Mind Museum and pay at the ticket booth.

*Please email for bank deposit details. Note that all official receipts will be given to you during the start of the program.

3.  If you deposited the donation to any of the bank accounts, please send a scanned copy of the deposit slip to with the following as your email title.

(Email title format: Name of Program / Full name of participant / Deposit Slip)(Ex. Marine Science Adventure Camp / Juan Dela Cruz / Deposit Slip)

4.   You may also fax your deposit slip: 909-6461.

5.    Wait for a confirmation email from the Mind Museum.


Registration Links for the Summer Programs:

Please CLICK on the program below:

           CSI 101 (All Ages)

Please register as soon as possible because slots are limited. Take note that your slots are not confirmed until you deposit the requested donation. 

Once you click the program link, please make sure to read the instructions thoroughly. 

The Mind Museum is a project of the non-profit Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc. It is dedicated to providing an extraordinary educational experience that inspires the public understanding of science. All proceeds go completely into supporting science.

(Source: vanesa)

Comet of the Century? - A Series of Articles about Comet ISON

By Pecier Decierdo

Because Comet ISON is a sungrazer that is larger than the lovely Comet Lovejoy, some scientists project that it will be one of the brighter comets of the last few years. This led some writers to prematurely hail it as a possible “comet of the century”. Some even claimed that it might rise to become brighter than the full moon come late December, a claim that is almost certainly false.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of optimism, there are people who proclaimed that ISON has already “fizzled”, that it is going to be a failure. They compare it with Comet Kohoutek of 1973, a comet that was also hailed as a “comet of the century” but failed to live up to the hype. Like ISON, Kohoutek is a first-time visitor bringing virgin ice and dust into the inner Solar System. And some claim that ISON, like Kohoutek, will be a dud, another failure.

Comet experts, however, advise caution to both daydreamers and naysayers. While the universal law of gravitation strictly dictates the paths of comets, the great variability in comet composition and structure means that it is difficult to predict the brightness, size of coma, length of tail, color of ion clouds, and other properties of a newly observed comet. This fact about comets lead astronomer David Levy, co-discoverer of the famous Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, to say, “Comets are like cats: they have tails, and they do precisely what they want.”

What makes the behavior of comets hard to predict? To answer this question, we first need to take a closer look at the heart of a comet, the nucleus. Comets have often been described as dirty snowballs, although some astronomers prefer calling them snowy dirtballs. This is especially true when they are in the outskirts of the Solar System. As they approach the Sun, especially after they cross what is known as the frost line, the Sun blowtorches the outer layer of these snowy dirtballs making them release gas, dust, and streams of ions. It is when a comet is blowtorched that it becomes a marvel of the heavens. The frost line is an imaginary boundary around the Sun within which the Sun’s heat is enough to cause ice to sublimate efficiently.

The amount of gas and dust released by a comet, and therefore its brightness, depend on many things. One factor already mentioned is the comet’s distance from the Sun; the closer a planet is to the Sun, the more dust it will potentially release, and the brighter it may become.

Another important factor is the size of the comet’s nucleus. Not all nuclei are created equal. Some nuclei can be a dozen kilometers wide while others can be less than a kilometer in size. Halley’s Comet is around 11 km wide while Comet Lovejoy is only around 200 meters across. The Comet Hale-Bopp, with a nucleus estimated to be 60 km from end to end, is considered a giant.

With a nucleus having a diameter of more than 4.5 km, Comet ISON is significantly bigger than Comet Lovejoy. This means that Comet ISON has potentially more gas and dust to release.

Another important factor in Comet ISON’s chances of being a spectacle is its survival. As already mentioned, not all sungrazing comets survive their solar swing-by; some disintegrate before they even get the chance to swing past the Sun. Comet Ikeya-Seki, another spectacular sungrazer, survived perihelion, but not in one piece; it broke into three pieces around the time of its perihelion.

Comet ISON is very likely to survive its swing-by. Comet Lovejoy, a comet much smaller than Comet ISON, survived perihelion. Not only that, Comet Lovejoy also came much closer to the Sun than ISON will. More than two times closer, in fact.

A final factor affecting a comet’s brightness is the structure and composition of its nucleus. This is where the element of unpredictability comes in. Scientists are just beginning to realize the amazing diversity of chemical composition of the bodies in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. But as we learn more and more about the composition of comets, we realize that the kinds of substances they contain dramatically alter their brightness and color. Especially important to the brightness of comets is the amount of volatiles they contain. Volatile substances are chemicals that easily evaporate into their gaseous form. The more volatiles a comet’s nucleus has, the brighter it can get as it approaches the Sun.

Given our current knowledge and technology, science has little in the way of predicting how bright a comet can get. Perhaps in the future when our technology will allow us to determine the amount and kinds of volatiles in a comet while it is still far away from the Sun, then we can predict with precision how spectacular a comet can get. In the meantime, the best we can make is give forecasts that increase in precision as the comet approaches the Sun.

When it comes to Comet ISON, the current forecast shows that the optimists and pessimists were both wrong. Comet ISON will be a bright comet, and it may even be visible via the naked eye. But it won’t nearly be as bright as a full moon, either.

Nonetheless, Comet ISON will still be the most observed comet in history thanks to the hundreds of thousands amateur and professional astronomers who watched its progress ever since its discovery. And because of its other genuine claims to fame, the close study of Comet ISON will dazzle the astronomical community far more than mere visible brightness ever will.

Diving Into the Sun - A Series of Articles about Comet ISON

By Pecier Decierdo

Aside from being dynamically new, Comet ISON is also going to be a sungrazer. Sungrazing comets are comets that have orbits that take them really close to the Sun. How close? Recall that the mean distance of the Earth from the Sun is 1 AU (roughly 150 million kilometers). When the Earth is closest to the Sun (a point astronomers call perihelion), its distance from our local star is 0.98 AU. Contrast this to Comet ISON, which will have a perihelion distance of only 0.012 AU. The closest planet to the Sun, Mercury, has a perihelion distance of 0.31 AU. Hence, the Comet ISON will graze the Sun at a distance twenty five times closer that Mercury’s closest approach. 

When comets are far from the Sun, they appear as chunks of icy rock, which is why they are sometimes described as “dirty snowballs”, although some scientists prefer calling them “snowy dirtballs”. This snowy dirtball part of the comet is called its nucleus. When comets are far from the Sun, only the nucleus exists. When they’re near the Sun, however, the harsh stream of particles and radiation called the solar wind blowtorches the nucleus to release a cloud of gas called the coma. Although the nucleus of an average comet is only around a few kilometers wide (a hundred-kilometer comet is one of the bigger ones), a comet’s coma can be as large as Jupiter or Saturn! The solar wind also causes comets to release a stream of dust and ions called the tail. In fact, comets are well known for their tails, which can come in two varieties, a dust tail and a gas or ion tail. As their names suggest, they are composed mostly of dust and ionized gas, respectively. Like planets and asteroids, comets do not produce their own light. Rather, they reflect light coming from the Sun. (Well, the ionized gases release a small amount of light, but this light is not what makes approaching comets bright.)

As a comet approaches the vicinity of the Sun, its tail becomes longer, its coma larger, and it becomes brighter. Some comets become so bright they can be seen even when the Sun has barely set or risen! In general, comets are brightest when they are closest to the Sun. Sungrazing comets, therefore, have the potential to be really bright! The sungrazing Comet Lovejoy put on a wonderful show in the southern hemisphere last 2011. The Comet Ikeya-Seki was another extremely bright comet that dazzled stargazers when it grazed the Sun in 1965. The pictures above show how dazzling sungrazing comets can be.

Aside from the potential to be quite bright, sungrazing comets can also have very long tails. The Great Comet of 1843, another sungrazer, had a tail as long as 2 AU. That’s twice the mean Earth-Sun distance!

Sungrazing comets are also interesting to astronomers for another reason. Because they come so close to the Sun, sungrazers enter the zone known as the Roche limit. The Roche limit of a body is the distance from that object at which the gravitational tidal forces due to it becomes strong enough to possibly tear a smaller body to pieces. For example, if you place a moon within Saturn’s Roche limit, it will be torn apart by the gas giant’s gravitational tidal force, its pieces becoming part of the planet’s lovely ring system. Because they come very close to the Sun, sungrazing comets come within the Sun’s Roche limit and run the risk of being torn to pieces. In fact, many sungrazers do not survive their closest approach to the Sun, and instead disintegrate as they graze our star. Some even crash into the Sun’s surface. The Comet Ikeya-Seki broke into three large pieces before its perihelion, but each piece survived and went on almost identical orbits to put on a wonderful show in 1965. Each approach of a sungrazer, therefore, affords scientists a chance to study the toughness of comets as well as the strength of the gravitational field of the Sun. 

Virgin Material - A Series of Articles about Comet ISON

by Pecier Decierdo 

Comet ISON was discovered in November 2012 by astronomers Artyom Novichonok and Vitali Nevski using a 16-inch telescope that is part of the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON), from which the comet got its name. (A 16-inch telescope is a telescope with a main diameter, or aperture, of 16 inches. The larger the diameter of a telescope, the more light it gathers, the more powerful it is. As such, larger telescope can spot dimmer objects. The Mind Museum has two telescopes, one is a 6-inch telescope while the other is 4 inches in diameter.)

Many things suggest that this is Comet ISON’s first visit to the inner Solar System. Scientists therefore describe it as being dynamically new. This is also probably the comet’s last visit to the Solar System. If this last part is true, this means that Comet ISON is a single-apparition comet.

Many comets, like the famous Halley’s Comet and Comet Swift-Tuttle from which the Perseid meteors originate, are called periodic comets because they periodically return to the inner Solar System every few hundred years. Periodic comets have very eccentric orbits, which means their paths around the Sun are very elongated. They spend most of their time very far away from the Sun, usually in a region beyond the orbit of Neptune called the Kuiper Belt, where they move very slowly and are relatively inactive, basically just chunks of dirty ice. Their orbit periodically takes them very close to the Sun. During this time of proximity with the Sun, they move very quickly and shine brightly, producing a tail of gas and dust as they zip their way around the Sun. After this brief show, the periodic comet then returns to the cold and dark of the Kuiper Belt.

Other comets return to inner Solar System, but only after a very, very long time (tens of thousands of years). These comets are called long-period comets. One example is Comet Hyakutake, sometimes called the “great comet of 1996”. Assuming the gas giant planets don’t change its path too much, it will comes close to the Sun once every 70 thousand years! The orbits of long-period comets are even more eccentric than those of periodic comets. The current scientific consensus is that long-period comets are visitors from the part of the Solar System known as the Oort Cloud, which is even farther out than the Kuiper Belt. The Oort Cloud is a collection of dirty snowballs that extends up to up to 100,000 astronomical units from the Sun. (An astronomical unit or AU is the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun. 1 AU is roughly equal to 150 million kilometers.) Astronomers also think that objects in the Oort Cloud are remnants from the formation of the Solar System, spare parts that didn’t form into planets or their satellites.

Based on studies of Comet ISON’s path, its orbit around the Sun is not an elongated ellipse but is probably a hyperbola. This implies that Comet ISON is on a one-way trip to the inner part of our Solar System. Being dynamically new, the stuff that make up Comet ISON are therefore remnants from the early stages of the Solar System’s formation. Unlike periodic comets that get baked by the Sun’s radiance at regular intervals, the dust and ice of Comet ISON will be coming in contact with the Sun’s heat and radiation for the first time since the Solar System began some 4.5 billion years ago. By studying the materials that are ejected by the comet as it whizzes through the inner Solar System, scientists will get clues on how our Solar System formed and what kinds of stuff were there in the beginning. This is one of the biggest reasons why scientists are geeking out over Comet ISON.

Comet ISON by Pecier Decierdo

For the remainder of this year, all stargazing eyes will be on Comet ISON. Astronomers the world over are excited over the approach of this comet for three reasons. First, because it is a “dynamically new” comet, meaning it is a first time visitor to the inner Solar System. Second, it is a “sungrazer”, meaning its orbit will take it extremely close to the Sun in the coming months. Finally, it may turn out to be one of the more dazzling comets in recent years. This lead some journalists to describe it as a potential “comet of the century”. We will look at these three claims to fame one by one the following days.

Watch out for:

1. Virgin Material - How Comet ISON is a new visitor in our solar system.

2. Diving into the Sun - This article will talk about how comet ISON will be orbiting extremely close to the sun.

3. Comet ISON as the comet of the century.

Stay tuned for more articles! :)


Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan. These pieces originate from the same mining district that the ancient Egyptians used for obtaining lapis. Photo shows the typical mineralogy of lapis: blue lazurite, white calcite and gold pyrite

Recommendations: Lapis lazuli

So this is Lapis lazuli, a rare and expensive mineral that Leonardo Da Vinci used to paint the background of the Mona Lisa. This can also give you an idea of how far the color is now from the original. 

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