GREAT BALLS OF FIRE: Catch the Gateway Science Museum’s New Exhibit, in Chico, CA

great-balls-2Life on Earth now, life on Earth after a potentially catastrophic meteoric impact, and careers in renewable clean energy are all on the schedule during the next few weeks at the Gateway Science Museum in Chico.

The fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are blooming in popularity and interest, and the museum will host a STEM career day for high school and lower-division college students on Monday, Nov. 7 from 3:30-5 p.m. Sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank, this event will focus on careers in renewable clean energy and welcome many science and engineering professionals, including representatives from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Chico-based Springboard Biodiesel.

great-balls-4Renee Renner, executive director of the Gateway Science Museum, expects as many as 90 students to attend and listen to STEM professionals discuss the field and related careers.

This push to attract interest in STEM comes on the heels of California State University, Chico receiving a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support students pursuing studies in STEM-related fields.

Additionally, the museum continues its current exhibit, Great Balls of Fire: Comets, Asteroids, Meteors. This national traveling exhibit, developed by the Space Science Institute (SSI) with support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), runs through Jan. 8, 2017.

great-balls-ad“This astrophysics exhibit is very high-tech and interactive, and has been very well received ever since its opening earlier this month,” said Renner. “An example take-away is the knowledge that asteroids and comets have had a significant effect on Earth’s history, with the probability of future impacts.”

Renner added that class field trips to this exhibit are available for all ages, however mostly for grades 4 through 8, on Tuesday through Friday mornings.

A related Museum Without Walls lecture series called Impact – Strikes, Hits, and Near Misses welcomes a pair of speakers from NASA: David Des Marais from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California and Tiara Diamond, an astrophysicist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“The Gateway is honored to be hosting speakers from NASA,” said Renner. “We see this as an opportunity to expose our local community to topics and projects of current interest to astronomers and space programs, as well as to inspire University students to dream big, as they too may one day be members of an international science collaborative like NASA.”

Des Marais’ lecture on Oct. 26 is titled Astrobiology – Life on Earth (And Elsewhere).

Diamond’s lecture, Cosmic Horror Stories: Stellar Deaths and More!, will take place on Nov. 2.

Both lectures begin at 7:30 p.m.

Gateway Science Museum is located at 625 Esplanade in Chico, next to Bidwell Mansion.

The Museum is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit Gateway Science Museum’s website at

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