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UW Planetarium Welcomes Back Students with Myriad of Programs

July 28, 2016
image of sun in sky
The sun is a star just like others seen at night. Without the effect of the Earth's atmosphere, we can see the sun and background stars at the same time. Because the sun is so close to us, it appears as the largest, brightest star in the sky. During August, the sun is near the famous winter constellations of Orion the Hunter and Taurus the Bull. (UW Planetarium Photo)

August marks the return of students to campus, and a variety of programs about the galaxy awaits them at the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium.

“This month at the planetarium explores a little bit of everything: from the constellations to stars, especially our own sun; and spaceships, such as the Juno exploration of the gas giant, Jupiter,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “Join us at the planetarium to discover the cosmos for yourself.”

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 August planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- “The Olympians,” Friday, Aug. 5, 8 p.m. The ancient Greeks 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 Greek mythology. To celebrate this year’s Olympic Games, which the ancient Greeks started to honor their gods and mythology, visitors will gaze at their ancient storyboard to discover the shapes and characters that lie in these constellations. A Daft Punk laser light show follows at 9:10 p.m.

-- “Our Companion Star: Friend or Foe,” Friday, Aug. 12, 8 p.m. What is the closest star to Earth? It is the sun, only 8.5 light minutes away from our small blue planet. The massive ball of nuclear fusion at the center of our solar system is not often given proper reverence. This show will pay the sun proper respect with a discussion of what it is and the many ways it affects us -- both good and bad – here on Earth. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.

-- “The Sun,” Saturday, Aug. 13, 11 a.m. It lies at the center of our solar system, provides us warmth and makes life on Earth possible. This program will discuss everything about our parent star, the sun. After the show, visitors can go to the roof to view the sun. Protective eye equipment will be provided.

-- “The Jovian System,” Friday, Aug. 19, 8 p.m. In 1610, Galileo discovered the four largest moons of Jupiter and turned the world of astronomy upside down. And this past Fourth of July, the Juno mission succeeded in falling into orbit around Jupiter, with a mission to explore the atmosphere of this gas giant and gain clues to the formation of our solar system. For four centuries, man has been observing, exploring and discovering this giant planet. This show will introduce audiences to Jupiter, its many moons and everything there is to explore in this Jovian system. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Stellar Evolution,” Friday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m. Do you ever wonder why there is excessive hydrogen and limited amounts of metals in our universe? Or, how the physical development of our universe started? The answer is stars and their extraordinary life cycles. Watch this show to discover the incredible nature of stars and the role they've played in creating everything we know. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Spaceships,” Saturday, Aug. 27, 11 a.m. How did we send astronauts to the moon? How did we get close-up pictures of Pluto? We did it with spaceships. Through the years, humans have built all sorts of spaceships -- giant rockets, tiny robot spaceships and the space shuttle -- just to name a few. During this show, visitors will learn all about these real-life spaceships, from how they fly through outer space. Those who stay after the show will have the opportunity to design and create their very own spaceship.

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