A Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse: What to Expect

This Wednesday, the full moon takes a 6-hour slide through the Earth’s shadow starting at 4:47 am ET. Even though it is a total lunar eclipse, observers on the East Coast of the U.S. will see vanishingly little because the moon sets in the west just before any color begins to show. The brightening pre-dawn sky will also dilute any trace of color. Observers farther west will see more of the eclipse before sunrise; those farther east will see just the brilliant full moon. This time, the most uninhabited stretch of the planet, the Pacific Ocean, gets the front row seats for the event.

A man standing next to a portable telescope uses binoculars to observe stars in the twilight sky

What is Vernal Equinox?

The last few weeks of winter always seem to drag on for months. Unsettled weather alternates between tantalizing hints of warmth and throwbacks to December. Thankfully, the Earth continues its orbital motion around the Sun, insuring our return to spring. This year, the first day of spring, the Vernal Equinox, occurs on March 20th at 11:33 am in the Northern Hemisphere.

"Women in STEM" illustration

Celebrating Women's History in STEM

For more than a century, March has been a time to celebrate women’s contributions to historic and current society, as well as to highlight and protest continuing inequality around the world. International Women’s Day, March 8, dates back to the establishment of women’s suffrage in Russia. Here in the United States, Congress authorized the proclamation of Women’s History Week in 1981, and in 1987, the entire month of March was formally designed Women’s History Month. 

Perseverance 2021

Who’s Next on Mars? Perseverance!

Left: Perseverance spacecraft entering the Martian atmosphere.
Right: Perseverance being lowered to the surface from 20m height.
​Images curtesy of NASA

The latest addition to the suite of roving robotic laboratories exploring Mars arrives this afternoon. As big as a BMW coupe, the rover named ‘Perseverance’ screams through the Martian atmosphere at a blistering 13,000 mph around 3:30p EDT, still encased in its trans-Martian cruise shells. This is where the excitement begins after 7 months of quiet flight from Earth.

Black History Month 2021 Banner

Celebrate Black History Month with The Franklin Institute! 

“The experiences, struggles, and achievements of Black innovators in all areas of STEM are infinite,” said Darryl Williams, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Science and Education at The Franklin Institute. “During Black History Month and every month, it’s critical to highlight the leaders who are creating positive change in their area of expertise and within their communities, inspiring the next generation to add to this legacy of advancement.” 

Explore our Now/Next Exhibit: Artificial Intelligence!

To see the world in a grain of sand

Step into the Franklin Institute’s Now/Next exhibit and you’ll be immersed in the world of artificial intelligence (AI). Explore facial recognition, machine learning, robotics, and… a sand table?

At first glance, the humble sand table seems out of place in such a futuristic, tech-heavy space. But upon further inspection its accompanying story is revealed, one which underscores the power AI can have in helping humanity solve some of its most pressing problems. 

Tea cup and saucer

Celebrate Love with a Cup of Tea!

Our Curatorial Staff agree, Franklin's Tea Set (FI Catalog # 4001) is a favorite, not only for its beauty, but for its story. 

This porcelain tea set includes six cups and saucers, which fit perfectly into the velvet lined sections of a wooden box.  Hand-painted gilded leaves and flower clusters circle the pottery, and the handles of the cups resemble two curved stems with leaves. 


Cool Ways to Survive the Cold 

As winter sets in and the temperature starts to drop here in Philadelphia, I fall back on my favorite strategies for coping with the cold: hot cocoa and my favorite warm coat. Out in nature, however, animals have a range of biological strategies that help them survive in cold temperatures. Take hibernation, for instance. Many mammals survive the winter by finding shelter, slowing down their metabolism, and draw on energy reserves or stored food to survive the winter. Across animals, we can look at their DNA to find fascinating stories of how different survival techniques have evolved.  


First Crew Dragon ISS Exchange Mission

From L to R: NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins join Japanese Space Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi on the ride up to Space Station. Image: NASA

The first crew rotation at International Space Station to employ a SpaceX Dragon Crew Capsule launches November 14 at 7:49pm ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The four will join the Expedition 64 crew already aboard ISS, forming Expedition 64/65.

Graphic of people wearing masks

Your Mask Questions, Answered 

Face masks are an important part of public health strategies to keep COVID-19 in check. A mask helps to protect you from getting infected. It helps to keep you from infecting others. By masking up together, we slow the spread of the virus in our communities.  

With everyone now required to wear masks in public spaces here in Pennsylvania, we’ve been hearing questions about mask usage, safety, and effectiveness. The answers aren’t always as easy as putting a mask on, but here’s our guidance based on current evidence.  

Do I need to wear a mask indoors? 

A SpaceX Launch

How Does Weather Affect a Rocket Launch?

When the big day arrives, everyone on the launch team has carefully checked every aspect of the equipment to make sure everything will work according to plan. The astronauts have been trained to their peak of preparedness, and the area of launch and the flight path have been cleared of all traffic. The team built a plan to control every aspect of the event except – the weather.

Dragon Shuttle with astronauts

The Crewed SpaceX Demo-2 Mission

On May 30, NASA and the commercial rocket company SpaceX will launch the first crewed mission to International Space Station (ISS) from America since 2011. If successful, the SpaceX Demo-2 mission will open the doors on a new era of space exploration.

This mission is the second for the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle, but this time it will carry two astronauts to ISS. Doug Hurley and Ben Behnken, both veterans of NASA’s Space Shuttle program, have been preparing for the mission for about two years while SpaceX engineers have been perfecting the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s operation.

Woman walks along a path

Keep Calm, and Let Your Immune System Carry on!

How many times in the past month have you opened an email or clicked on a headline, only to encounter the following phase, “these are stressful times” – or perhaps it was, “these are unprecedented and stressful times”? The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown so many of our financial, professional, and personal lives for a loop. But, did you know that added stress can also put your physical health at risk? To understand how, let’s think about how our stress response and immune systems work.

Visor Bands at Made at Home

Maker Methods to Provide Aid to Healthcare Workers 

The shortage of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) is putting healthcare workers at increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. People worldwide have come together to produce creative solutions to combat this shortage. If you consider yourself a maker, problem-solver, or simply want to get your hands involved to help healthcare workers, this guide is for you. If you do not have the capabilities to produce the items listed below, please share with someone who might.  

before/after image of the New Delhi War Memorial

COVID, Climate, and Resilience

A now famous before/after image of the New Delhi War Memorial showing air quality improvements. Left: October 17, 2019. Right: April 18, 2020. (Anushree Fadnavis and Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

“The air is clear, the skies are blue. I see the evening stars with clarity....” Smita Tharoor told The Guardian newspaper last week as she marvelled at New Delhi’s new skyviews. Like millions of others, Smita is revelling in the rapid improvements of air quality seen the world over.

Rainbow prismatic image of 3D printer

Additive Manufacturing In A Time of Necessity

The growing pandemic caused by COVID-19 has created an unprecedented, rapid convergence between open source technology and healthcare.  Makers and technologists around the world are stepping up and galvanizing forces to develop and deploy materials and equipment to meet the demands being placed on world governments to protect the general public, as well as addressing the needs of health professionals working around the clock to put a stop to the disease.  But how is something like this even possible given the magnitude of the situation at hand?

Flowering Trees at Sunset

#FranklinOutside Scavenger Hunt

You’re not alone—alongside the uncertainty and worry of the past few weeks, the stress of confinement can feel overwhelming. Spending our days inside distanced from friends and loved ones can take a heavy toll on our personal well-being.

It’s during uncertain times like these that I look to nature for a relaxing escape. While the natural environment certainly can’t solve all of our ailments, plenty of scientific evidence documents the positive effect spending time in nature has on both our mental and physical health.

International Space Station

Seeing the International Space Station!

Updated April 27, 2020

Looking for something unique to do with your spare time? Become an ISS spotting expert! All you need is your phone and a place to view from – your backyard, your front step, a nearby intersection – but no telescope. This is almost exclusively a ‘naked eye’ experience to be done only when the sky is clear. Share this information with your family across the region, then do it together as a group!

Here’s when to look.  Timing is specific to the Philadelphia region.