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NASA Solar System Ambassador offers a glimpse at the sun

CARIBOU, Maine — As part of Caribou’s series of activities leading up to an Oct. 29 downlink event in which local students will have a chance to speak with Caribou native and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir while she’s in space, NASA Solar System Ambassador Adam Mendoza offered community members a safe way to view the sun. 

The event, which took place Oct. 3 in the Caribou Wellness and Recreation Center Parking lot, featured a laptop hooked up to a DSLR camera, which was connected to a large telephoto lens. 

Mendoza has been involved with the NASA Solar System Ambassador program since 2018, and has visited a handful of schools around central Aroostook County, including Washburn and Northern Maine Community College.

He said he was inspired to get involved due to an interest in space “and anything space-related,” and also because he had been involved with astrophotography for roughly three years. 

“I started with regular photography,” he said, “and then I saw some pictures online of the milky way, and thought that I’d try taking some pictures of it myself.”

From that moment on, Mendoza said he has been particularly interested in astrophotography.

Oct. 3 is Mendoza’s first time hosting a sun observation event in Caribou, and said it coincides with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which was launched on Aug. 12 for a six-year and 321-day mission to explore the sun up close, and to uncover the mystery of the sun’s corona.

“We have very little knowledge about the corona,” said Mendoza. “The funny thing about it is that it gets colder as you get closer to the sun and hotter as you go farther away.”

According to NASA’s website, the sun’s surface is roughly 10,000 degrees fahrenheit, whereas the outer atmosphere, or corona, is approximately 3 million degrees.

Looking ahead, the rec center will host a “Galactic LEGO Night” at 6 p.m. on Oct. 11, as well as an “I Love You to the Moon & Back” rustic sign creation at 6 p.m. on Oct. 14,vin addition to hosting the Oct. 29 downlink.

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