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Finding Cosmic Easter Eggs in Space Part of March Planetarium Schedule

February 26, 2016
photo of stars and galaxies through a telescope
What appears to be a sky dotted with stars is one actually filled with entire galaxies (a group of billions of stars). March programs at the UW Planetarium feature the beauty and wonder of our universe to show that, like this photo, there is always more than meets the eye. (UW Planetarium Photo)

An Easter egg hunt in space highlights a series of programs that focus on the search for hidden gems in the sky at the University of Wyoming’s Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium during March.

“On a warm March evening, you may look into our night sky and see stars and planets; maybe even recognize a constellation or two. But, there also are hidden treasures in Wyoming’s night sky,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “March at the planetarium features the beauty and wonder of our solar system and beyond to show that there is always more than meets the eye.”

Friday night shows start at 7 p.m. during the spring semester, with a laser light show or a STAR Observatory tour scheduled to follow an hour later. Kid-themed shows are scheduled Saturdays at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $3 for students and $4 for non-students, and 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 the planetarium’s 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 March planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- “IBEX:  The Search for the Edge of the Solar System (full-dome movie),” Friday, March 4, 7 p.m. What cosmic objects make up our solar system? Where does the solar system end? The sun is at the center of our solar system, and it is orbited by the eight planets, Pluto and so much more. This program will look beyond the orbit of Pluto to discover that the solar system reaches farther than we could have ever imagined. After the presentation, the full-dome movie, titled “IBEX: The Search for the Edge of the Solar System,” will be shown. The film takes the audience on a journey that searches even farther from the sun, to where our solar system ends and the interstellar medium begins. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8 p.m.

-- “The Jewel of the Solar System,” Friday, March 11, 7 p.m. Saturn, due to its beautiful rings, is the most recognizable planet in our solar system. But, there is so much more to this cosmic jewel. For example, if Saturn was placed in water, it would float. This show covers everything known about Saturn, from the remarkable rings to its stunning composition and formation. A Laser Daft Punk laser light show follows at 8:10 p.m.

-- “Two Small Pieces of Glass (full-dome movie),” Saturday, March 12, 11 a.m. More than two-thirds of Earth is covered in liquid water. Where did all that water come from, and does it exist elsewhere in our solar system? This program will explore the planets and moons in our solar system to find where liquid water could exist. Could extraterrestrial life exist on these objects as well? After the show, attendees will experiment with water and discover its many amazing qualities that led to life on Earth.

-- “Astronomy 101,” Friday, March 18, 7 p.m. Are you interested in astronomy, but have never taken a class? Do you want to learn more about the night sky? This show will provide an introduction to astronomy and the sky at night. The program, which condenses a semester of astronomy into 45 minutes, will explore constellations, planets, the Milky Way and beyond. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8 p.m.

-- “Gravity Waves 100 Years After Einstein,” Friday, March 25, 7 p.m. In 1920, two astronomers, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, held a public debate on the size of the universe to determine whether it was small or large. The work of Shapley and other astronomers -- including Henrietta Leavitt and Edwin Hubble -- brought conclusive evidence that the universe is, indeed, large and filled with billions of "island universes" or, as we know them today, galaxies. This program explores these island universes from their birth to their ultimate demise, and everything in between. A U2 laser light show follows at 8:10 p.m.

-- “Easter Eggs in Space,” Saturday, March 26, 11 a.m. An Easter egg hunt will take place in space. This program will explore the night sky beyond the stars to discover deep sky objects. Beautiful, yet difficult to find, these are the night sky's hidden gems, or cosmic Easter eggs. After the show, attendees will have the opportunity to discover that even light has its own hidden treasures. 

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