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June Offers Plenty of Summer Stargazing Opportunities at UW Planetarium

May 26, 2016
constelleation of scorpion outlined in the stars
This month, the planets of Saturn and Mars will both appear in the constellation Scorpius, the scorpion. Scorpius will rise in the south in the evening and be visible for most of the night. (UW Planetarium Photo)

Nights in Wyoming are the shortest during June. But the evenings are warm and make stargazing a popular activity at the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium during June.

“On clear nights, you may be able to spot stars, constellations and planets -- perhaps, even a shooting star,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “These are our neighboring cosmic objects, and there is much to explore within them and beyond. From our planetary neighborhood to the entirety of the universe, this June at the planetarium explores the vastness of space around us.”

Friday shows start at 8 p.m. during the summer, 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.-4:30 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 June planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- “Layers of the Solar System,” Friday, June 3, 8 p.m. The components and intricacy of our solar system are marveling to any onlookers. From the center of the sun, to the planets and minor planets, and out to the heliosphere (the farthest known boundary of the solar system), this program will look at what makes up our solar system and how our solar system works as a whole. A Best of U2 laser light show follows at 9:10 p.m.

-- “Moons!,” Saturday, June 4, 11 a.m. Moons are not just craters, but methane lakes, volcanoes of ice, deep chasms and vast oceans. Celebrate summer and the stargazing nights it brings by experiencing the biggest playground in the solar system: the planetary moons. After the show, attendees will have a chance to experiment with making their own crater.

-- “Death of the Universe,” Friday, June 10, 8 p.m. Whether in a cosmic boom or a stellar implosion, eventually our universe will come to an end. But, the physical forces that determine the existence of our universe also will determine its eventual fate. This program introduces the end of everything and the forces that will bring it about. Note: This show may be unsuitable for some children. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Gravity Wars: 100 Years After Einstein,” Friday, June 17, 8 p.m. Einstein developed his Theory of Relativity a century ago and, like any good theory, it provided many testable predictions including gravity waves. These gravity waves are ripples in the curvature of space-time that are generated when massive objects move. This presentation will provide an overview of gravity waves and their exciting recent experimental confirmation. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Constellations for Beginners,” Saturday, June 18, 11 a.m. This program is an introduction to the tales told by the ancient Greeks who created our favorite constellations. This program is an interactive star walk through the night sky, and the stories and tales that piece it together. After the show, attendees can create their own constellation and receive a stellar prize.

-- “Dwarf Planets,” Friday, June 24, 8 p.m. There are at least five, and likely hundreds of objects in our solar system that don't quite fit the definition of "planet." One of the most controversial topics in the astronomical community is the distinction between “planet” and these smaller solar system bodies.  Pluto, once considered the ninth planet in our solar system, is the most famous of these controversial objects. This program will explore Pluto and the other lesser known members of the planetary minor leagues. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.

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