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'Ask a Scientist' to preview proposed 'Planet Walk'

RELEASED: April 7, 2010

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's "Ask a Scientist" series will continue this month with "A Planet Walk for Eau Claire" at 7 p.m. April 27 at the Acoustic Café in downtown Eau Claire.

The presentation will combine a review of the decade's most remarkable voyages of robotic spacecraft and a preview of the proposed "Planet Walk," a one-mile stretch of educational markers depicting the solar system along the Chippewa River bike trail.

The "Planet Walk" was inspired by an astronomy course taught by Dr. Paul Thomas, professor of physics and astronomy at UW-Eau Claire. Each year students create a scale model of the solar system in the Phillips Science Hall corridor. Thomas observed how surprised people were when they saw the small size of the planets and the great distances between them.

"I thought it would be a great idea to have a set of permanent markers representing the solar system on the banks of the Chippewa River," said Thomas, whose proposal was unanimously approved by the Eau Claire City Council in August. If fundraising efforts are successful, construction will begin during summer 2011. The exhibit will wend its way from Phoenix Park to the Haas Fine Arts Center on the UW-Eau Claire campus.

"I think it will be a great regional attraction for the city of Eau Claire and an exciting educational resource for our community."

Thomas and co-presenter, Janis Roadt, a junior physics major from Eau Claire, also will discuss the Texas-sized impact crater on Mercury, sand dunes on Mars, the 1000-mile shadows of Saturn's rings and the footprints of Apollo astronauts on the moon as viewed through the technology of robotics.

Organizers of the "Ask a Scientist" series are open to suggestions from the community for future topics. Ideas for interesting or even controversial scientific presentations are welcome. The monthly event is geared toward the educated layperson and is typically held at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Acoustic Café. The presentations are free and open to the public.

For more information or to submit ideas, contact Dr. Paul Thomas at 715-836-3615 or thomaspj@uwec.edu.

-30-

RD/DW

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