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Debating Pluto, Debunking Myths Highlight May Planetarium Schedule

April 23, 2015
man in darkness looking up at plantetarium dome full of stars
Travis Laurance, director of the Harry C. Vaughan UW Planetarium, looks to the sky to view Orion the Hunter and two of his dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. (UW Photo)

Visitors to the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium will not only be treated to programs about Jupiter and Neptune under the dome this month. They will be able to go outside and observe the night skies as well, perhaps catching a glimpse of those planets.

“Our planetarium shows during the month of May will take audiences from the night sky in Laramie, to the life and death of stars, and to cosmic treasures within our own galaxy,” says Travis Laurance, the planetarium’s director. “We also have two unique shows we are excited to premiere. One will be a special two-person debate on the planetary status of Pluto and the other will cover fun and common myths about space.”

The optional rooftop telescope tours, which allow visitors to look through a 16-inch STAR (Student Teaching and Research) Observatory telescope, will be offered Fridays when no laser light show is planned. The informal tours are free and guests may leave at any time during the tour.

Tickets cost $2 for students and $3 for non-students, and can be purchased at the Department of Physics main office, located in Room 204 of the Physical Sciences Building, Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Friday from 8 a.m.-noon. Doors open 20 minutes before each show, where tickets will be sold if available. The planetarium, which seats 58, is located in the basement of the Physical Sciences Building.

Since the renovations were finished last November, the full-dome shows now provide immersive 3-D experiences. Traditional star shows have been replaced with far more interactive presentations, similar to an IMAX theater. Laser shows consist of three lasers (red, blue and green) that project graphics on the dome. The lasers are synchronized with music, and pre-programmed graphics and images are displayed.

The May planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- May: This Month’s Sky, Friday, May 1, 7 p.m. As the nights get warmer in Laramie, there will be more opportunities to star gaze. If you’re not sure what to look for, stop by the planetarium to discover which constellations and planets will shine this month, and how to find them. There also may be an opportunity to find some hidden cosmic treasure. A Michael Jackson laser light show follows at 8:20 p.m.

-- Scale of the Universe, Saturday, May 2, 4 p.m. We all know the universe is big, but how big? How do we measure astronomical distances, and what’s a log scale? Learn how big and far apart objects in the universe are and, more importantly, the techniques used to find out.

--The Great Pluto Debate, Friday, May 8, 7 p.m. Is Pluto a planet? Is it a dwarf planet or something completely different? Debate surrounding Pluto’s reclassification has raged for years. Now, the UW Planetarium brings the debate to the public. The pros and cons will be discussed, and the public will make its own conclusion. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8:20 p.m.

-- Stellar Evolution, Friday, May 15, 7 p.m. As stars are born and evolve, the sequence of their life is filled with radical changes. Whether stars live trillions of years or a few million, their lives are all created from dust. Once born, stars take differing life paths based on size and energy. This opens opportunities of extreme nature, such as black holes or white dwarves. Watch this show to find out how stars are born, how they live and what they become. A Laser Legends laser light show follows at 8:20 p.m.

-- Moons of Our Solar System, Saturday, May 16, 4 p.m. Just as the planets are unique, so are the moons that orbit them. Did you know that some moons have volcanoes or liquid water? Some moons may even have life. This program will explore how these moons are made; what makes them different; and what could happen to them in the future.

-- Astronomy Mythbusters, Friday, May 22, 7 p.m. From the dark side of the moon to the twinkling stars of the constellations and beyond, attendees will be set straight on any astronomical misconceptions they may have or didn’t know they had. Put on your helmets and strap in for a ride to bust all of those myths and misconceptions. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8:20 p.m.

-- Treasures of the Milky Way, Friday, May 29, 7 p.m. Explore dark interstellar clouds that enshroud the birth of stars, dazzling nebulae that betray the deaths of stars, globular star clusters and a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. A Pink Floyd laser light show follows at 8:20 p.m.

-- Back to the Moon for Good (Movie), Saturday, May 30, 4 p.m. This full-dome movie looks at past missions that have explored the moon. The audience will then learn about the Google Lunar XPRIZE and the teams that are competing to be the first to travel back to the moon.

For more information, go to and click on “Planetarium is Open!” on the left-side navigation bar, call (307) 766-6150, or email

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