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Planetarium Schedule Packed With Programs During April

March 24, 2016
spiral galaxy in space with the word home in one arm
This image is what we think the Milky Way, Earth’s home galaxy, would look like if viewed from the outside. The Milky Way contains 200 billion to 400 billion stars, including the sun. (UW Planetarium Photo)

April usually brings warmer nights to Laramie, which makes stargazing at the University of Wyoming Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium a more desirable evening option. Plus, there are a number of programs, including one about Earth Day, available for the campus community and general public to learn more about our galaxy, past and present.

“The days are getting longer and warmer, a new set of constellations are rising, and all five of the visible planets can be spotted,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “From April Fool’s Day to Earth Day, there is a lot to celebrate.”

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 approximately 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 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 April planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- “Don’t Be Fooled,” Friday, April 1, 7 p.m. Have you ever heard that Mars will be as large as the full moon at night? Or, that Mercury is the hottest planet? These are common hoaxes and misconceptions about our solar system. This program will introduce visitors to popular astronomical myths and misconceptions and, more importantly, to the reality behind them. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8 p.m.

-- “The Universe is Big, Really Really Big,” Friday, April 8, 7 p.m. How many Earths could fit inside Jupiter? How long would it take for a person to travel to the closest star? Here's a hint: A whole lot of Earths and an extremely long time. But, that's just about Jupiter and our nearest stellar neighbor. There are countless other objects in space that are a lot bigger and a lot farther away. Join us as we attempt to comprehend just how big the universe really is. Be ready to have your mind blown at the vastness of our universe.

-- “Astronomy for Your Young Stars,” Saturday, April 9, 11 a.m. This show provides a great introduction to astronomy for young kids (and for the older “kids” as well). This program will introduce the night sky and help visitors discover what they see when they look up. The show also includes a tour of a few planets and travel outside of the Milky Way. After the show, visitors will have an opportunity to design and create their own constellation and take home a stellar prize.

-- “Ancient Astronomy,” Friday, April 15, 7 p.m. People have long been fascinated by stars, even back to the most ancient of civilizations. In fact, astronomy is the oldest natural science. Our ancestors used signs they saw in the night sky to understand the world they lived on, life as they knew it and their greater place in the universe. The search for knowledge about the stars was not merely a pursuit of curiosity, but rather a way of life for people in ancient cultures that has greatly contributed to people’s lives in modern times. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8 p.m.

-- “Earth Day,” Friday, April 22, 7 p.m. To celebrate Earth Day, the UW Planetarium will host the ultimate show about our home planet. This program will introduce visitors to discover the large and small factors, such as Earth’s composition and peculiar position in the solar system, which contributed to massive growth of life on the planet. A Laser Gaga laser light show follows at 8:10 p.m.

-- “Moons Are a Planet’s Best Friend,” Saturday, April 23, 11 a.m. The solar system is full of moons. Did you know that other planets in our solar system have moons, too? Mars has two. Jupiter, the largest planet, has 67. This program explores these friends of the planets and shows how different they are from Earth’s moon. After the show, visitors will have an opportunity to build a planet -- with moons -- of their own design. How many moons will it have?

-- “Spring Into Stargazing,” Friday, April 29, 7 p.m. During April, the days finally get warmer and a new set of constellations rises in the evening. It’s a perfect time of year to spend an evening stargazing. This program will introduce visitors to Wyoming’s spring sky: which constellations are visible and how to find them, which planets you’ll be able to spot, and when to look for meteor showers. After the show, visitors can use the STAR Observatory to test their new knowledge and spot objects in the spring sky. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8 p.m.

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