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Celestial Sky Exploration Kicks Off Fall Planetarium Schedule

August 28, 2015
picture of sky with constellations outlined
This image illustrates the Summer Triangle, an asterism that is created by connecting the brightest stars in three separate constellations. (UW Planetarium Photo)

An exploration of the primary celestial objects in the sky will kick off the fall schedule at the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium.

“Our September lineup is ideal for those who like to spend time outdoors looking at the stars,” says Travis Laurance, the planetarium’s director. “We begin with a tour of the September night sky, followed by an exploration of our planet Gaia. We then take guests on a tour of the famous Messier objects, which are visible with a fairly small telescope, and then finish with stories from Greek mythology.”

Friday night shows start at 7 p.m. during the fall, with a laser light show or a STAR Observatory tour scheduled to follow approximately an hour later. Kid-themed shows are scheduled Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. The Saturday shows also offer after-planetarium activities, which include making craters and volcanoes, and a Halloween party.

Tickets cost $3 for students and $4 for nonstudents during September, which is a $1 increase from last year.

“Our presenters work many hours in creating unique shows, and the additional rate will help to offset the cost of development,” Laurance explains.

Tickets can be purchased at the Department of Physics and Astronomy 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 renovations were finished in November 2014, 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 September planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- “This Month’s Sky: September,” Friday, Sept. 4, 7 p.m. Begin the month with an exploration of the primary celestial objects we will be seeing throughout September. Tonight will start visitors on their way to informational and enjoyable stargazing all month. A Pink Floyd laser light show follows at 8:10 p.m.

-- “Constellations for Kids,” Saturday, Sept. 5, 11 a.m. Constellations for Kids is an introduction to the tales told by the ancient Greeks that created our favorite constellations. Children can participate in an interactive star-walk through the night sky, and the stories and tales that piece it together. After the show, children can create their own constellations and write their origin stories in order to receive a stellar prize.

-- “Gaia,” Friday, Sept. 11, 7 p.m. Gaia, the great mother of all, originated in Greek mythology as the creator of all things. Gaia provided the gods, the land and everything else known in Greek culture. When “Gaia” is converted from Greek to English, it becomes interchangeable with “Earth.” This show introduces both basic and advanced knowledge about Earth with an astronomer’s perspective. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8 p.m.

-- “Messier Tour,” Friday, Sept. 18, 7 p.m. Charles Messier identified the night sky's best gems hidden within or just beyond the visible range. During this show, participants will learn where to find the most popular of these objects, with visualizations rivaling what can be seen with the world's biggest telescopes. A Led Zeppelin laser light show follows at 8:10 p.m.

-- “Moons,” Saturday, Sept. 19, 11 a.m. Learn about methane lakes, ice volcanoes, deep chasms and vast oceans. Celebrate International Observe the Moon Night by experiencing the biggest playground in the solar system: the planetary moons. Come dressed as your favorite moon to receive a lunar surprise.

-- “Greek Mythology,” Friday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m. Ancient civilizations used the night sky as a clock, calendar and storyboard for their unique mythologies. The 88 constellations that piece our sky together are dominated by ancient Greek mythology. This program will connect the dots to discover shapes and characters that lie in the constellations and help stargazers navigate the night sky. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8 p.m.

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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