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Press Release: Program Set for Sagan Planet Walk

October 24, 1997

ITHACA, N.Y.--Today members of the Sagan Planet Walk volunteer committee announced that the Sagan Planet Walk--an outdoor, permanent scale model of the solar system named after Carl Sagan, the late Sciencenter Advisory Board member, Cornell University professor, astronomer, author and television personality--will be dedicated on Saturday, Nov. 8, 1997, in Ithaca beginning with a ceremony at 10:30 a.m.

The public ceremony will be held in the atrium of Center Ithaca. The festivities will commence at 10:30 a.m. with scheduled speakers New York State Sen. James Seward (R-50th); New York State Assemblyman Martin Luster (D-125th); Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen; Charles Trautmann, executive director of the Sciencenter; and Bill Nye the Science Guy®, host of a children's science series on Public Broadcasting Service and former student of Sagan's. The sun will be unveiled at 11:45 a.m. by Ann Druyan, Sagan's wife and long-time collaborator, and the walk through the planets to the Sciencenter will begin immediately after.

The solar system model stretches from the sun on the Ithaca Commons to Pluto at the Sciencenter 1,200 meters (three-fourths mile) away. It will consist of 10 stations, one for each of the nine planets and one for the sun. These monuments are approximately 2 meters (6 feet high) and accurately spaced on a scale of one to five billion.

After the unveiling, graduate and post-doctoral students from the Cornell Department of Astronomy will lead walks from the Ithaca Commons to the Sciencenter. Also, free shuttle service from the Ithaca Commons to the Sciencenter will be availablefrom 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The service is provided by the Downtown Ithaca Business Improvement District.

A public reception will begin at the Sciencenter at 1:30 p.m. Speakers will include Druyan, Nye and Louis Friedman, Ph.D., director of The Planetary Society, Pasadena, CA. A raffle-style drawing will be held for two tickets on a 12-day cruise through the Panama Canal, donated by Royal Olympic Cruises, New York, N.Y.

Designed by local artist Erin Caruth, each planet station will feature high-resolution color spacecraft images of the planet on porcelain-enamel signs. Also, scale models of the planets in scale sun-sized Plexiglas windows will be added to demonstrate the size of the planet in relation to the sun. Physical characteristics of the planets are portrayed by pictographs, and unique features are described in text illustrated by NASA color photographs.

The sun and Pluto stations are polished blue-pearl granite monuments with sandblasted images of symbols related to the seasons, stars and planets that can be used by teachers to stimulate school group discussions. The other eight planet stations are pre-cast concrete monuments.

Visitors may purchase a "Passport to the Solar System" to use as they embark on their 1200-meter walk. These passports provide interesting facts about each planet and the sun while posing questions to encourage discussion. Using this as a guide, visitors are invited to stop at each planet station to read the information provided in the passport and to have their passport stamped as proof of their "visit" to each planet. Each stamp will be a Greek symbol that corresponds to the sun or planet. Volunteers will sell the passports for $1 on the Ithaca Commons on Nov. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sagan, who would have been 63 on Nov. 9, was a member of the Sciencenter Advisory Board, until his death Dec. 20, 1996, from complications of a bone marrow disease. Because of his contributions to the Sciencenter and his efforts to increase the public understanding of science, the planet walk bears his name. Sagan was a member of the faculty at Cornell University and the recipient of three Emmys, a Peabody Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his work in science. Sagan is most recently recognized as the author of the book, "Contact," which was made into the 1997 movie of the same name.