Presque Isle science event also aids cancer victims

Posted Feb. 26, 2010, at 8:40 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:32 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — An event that over the past few years has helped raise awareness about a mission in outer space and a struggle here on Earth once again is taking place at the University of Maine at Presque Isle today.

The Northern Maine Museum of Science and Aroostook Caring Area Neighbors for Cancer Education and Recovery are hosting the fourth annual Planet Head Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today in UMPI’s Gentile Hall.

Planet Head Day is meant to increase awareness of NASA’s mission to Pluto and garner money for the nonprofit C.A.N.C.E.R. organization, which provides support to families and individuals dealing with cancer.

As part of the event, participants don theatrical bald caps or have their hair shaved off and then have their heads painted to look like planets, moons, asteroids and comets.

Kevin McCartney, museum director and one of the organizers of the event, said recently that the event not only provides science education, it also acknowledges “our friends and neighbors who are fighting cancer.”

The number of participants in the event has increased every year, with residents of Maine and Canada taking part.

The idea for Planet Head Day originated when the museum began looking for a unique way to celebrate the discovery of Pluto, which took place 80 years ago on Feb. 18, 1930, and to increase awareness of its Maine Solar System Model. The model stretches from UMPI to Topsfield and consists of models of the planets at specific locations along U.S. Route 1.

Planet Head Day also was inspired by a cause that is close to the hearts of McCartney and Jeanne McGowan, project co-organizer. McGowan is a cancer survivor. At the time of the first Planet Head Day, McGowan was battling breast cancer and was bald because of chemotherapy treatments. McCartney’s father died of cancer last year.

Planet Head Day participants will have many photographs of planets and moons to choose from when selecting how they want their scalps to look. Barber Patrick Coughlin of Parsons Street Barbershop, three hairdressers from local beauty salon Great Beginnings, and an assemblage of planet head painters will be available for the occasion.

Participants also will have the opportunity to take part in healthful activities in support of C.A.N.C.E.R. Individuals can participate in hoop shooting, swimming relays and laps around the elevated track in between planet head-painting and learning more about C.A.N.C.E.R.

Craig Green, C.A.N.C.E.R treasurer, said the organization is pleased to be taking part again in Planet Head Day. He noted that fundraising for cancer remains a priority particularly because of the downturn in the economy.

“As the economy continues to suffer and as travel costs have continued to increase, we have had more requests for assistance for travel funds,” he said. “Partnership projects like this will help us to shine a light on these needs while creating a stream of revenue to assist them.”

Pluto, a dwarf planet, is of particular interest to the Northern Maine Museum of Science. Located at UMPI, the museum is an educational outreach participant in New Horizons, the NASA mission that in January 2006 launched a spacecraft that is scheduled to reach Pluto in July 2015. The New Horizons spacecraft has nearly reached the halfway point of its journey to Pluto.

Anyone unable to attend today’s event may mail donations to C.A.N.C.E.R., P.O. Box 811, Presque Isle 04769.

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