PacSci Perspectives

Explore The Arctic At Pacific Science Center’s Polar Science Weekend

by | Mar 1, 2017

NASA to join as featured exhibitor, March 3-5, 2017

SEATTLE, WA (March 1, 2017) — Take a scientific journey to the ends of the earth at Pacific Science Center’s next Curiosity Days: Polar Science Weekend, March 3-5. Investigate a real ice core from Greenland, eavesdrop underwater on the sounds of whales and tour an actual Arctic Ice Camp that polar researchers call home; all with the guidance of scientists in the field.

Presented in partnership with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, Polar Science Weekend brings current research from some of the most scientifically impactful regions of our planet to Pacific Science Center with interactive exhibits and opportunities to talk with some of the nation’s top polar scientists who have worked in this rigorous climate.

This year NASA is joining in on the fun and will be exhibiting a model of its ICESat-2 (Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2), which launches in 2018. It measures the height and thickness of sea and land ice, as well as estimate global vegetation mass. Guests will be able to stand under the model and have their height measured.

Photon Jump, a 3-minute movie describing how this technology works, will be premiering at Polar Science Weekend. In the film, a brave photon of light named Pho must travel from a NASA spacecraft down to Earth and back again to help complete a crucial science (climate change) mission. The animation was produced through an education partnership between NASA and students from the Savannah College of Art and Design. The idea of the film is to pique interest into learning more about the mission’s objectives to use lasers to measure the melting of ice sheets and sea ice from space.

In addition to NASA’s ICESat-2, they’ll be facilitating two activities:

  • “Motion in the Ocean” Experiments – Explore how water moves throughout the ocean with this hands-on activity, which uses colored saltwater and freshwater in recycled tennis-ball tubes. The experiment demonstrates how fluids move depending on their densities — see for yourself what happens when you pour fresh water on top of salt water in a tube. This is similar to what happens when sea ice melts in the Arctic or Antarctic Ocean, since the ice is less salty than the ocean water.
  • ICESat-2 Bouncy Ball Photon Collection Activity – Teams will use green bouncy balls, representing particles of light, to experience what a difficult job ICESat-2 has as the NASA satellite measures the height of our planet. A group will bounce these “photons” off different surfaces and try to collect them, just as the satellite sends down and collects laser photons.

“We’re thrilled to share hands-on activities during the Polar Weekend, and introduce visitors to the world of NASA’s polar research,” said Valerie Casasanto, outreach lead for the ICESat-2 mission at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “This is also a chance for guests to get the first look at our animated ‘Photon Jump’ short film, which will premier during the Polar Weekend.”

Scientists and researchers will be joined by the U.S. Coast Guard and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium to highlight unique and engaging activities.

Demonstrations include:

  • Extreme Cold
  • Antarctica Under the Ice
  • Arctic Marine Mammals
  • Keep It Cool for Polar Bears
  • Living and Working in Antarctica

Activities include:

  • Salinity taste tests
  • Discovering Polar Science Technology
  • Sea Ice vs. Freshwater Ice
  • Polar Detectives

Polar Science Weekend is a partnership between Pacific Science Center and the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory. Generously sponsored by PEMCO.

Polar Science Weekend is presented as part of Curiosity Days, Pacific Science Center’s monthly program where guests of all ages are invited to explore a different theme each month through hands-on activities and presentations by local experts, as well as featured IMAX® movies, stage shows and more. More information can be obtained at

About Pacific Science Center

Pacific Science Center is an independent, not-for-profit institution in Seattle. The institution’s mission is to ignite curiosity in every child and to fuel a passion for discovery, experimentation, and critical thinking in all of us. Pacific Science Center’s award-winning, interactive programs reach more than 1.1 million people each year – in their communities, classrooms, and on the Seattle campus and at Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center. Pacific Science Center began as the United States Science Pavilion during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Millions came to explore the wonders of science during the World’s Fair and upon closing ceremonies, the Science Pavilion was given new life as the private not-for-profit Pacific Science Center, becoming the first U.S. museum founded as a science and technology center. On July 22, 2010 Pacific Science Center was declared a City of Seattle Landmark.