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UW Planetarium Programs During October Focus on Autumn Night Skies

September 29, 2016
photo of star field with spiral galaxy in it
Autumn skies bring new constellations, stars and deep sky objects. The most famous of these deep sky objects is M31, or the Andromeda Galaxy. This spiral galaxy lies approximately 2.5 million light years from Earth, but can be seen in the night sky when no light pollution is present. The galaxy is enlarged in this photo and located just to the right of the Milky Way, which runs down the center of this photo. (UW Planetarium Photo)

With a brisk chill in the air, leaves changing color and nights getting longer, it’s time to start bundling up before stepping outside to stargaze in Laramie. A number of programs at the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium during October focus on the clear autumn night skies. One program even has a Halloween theme.

“This month at the planetarium welcomes the new season and the changes that come with it,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “We also are happy to introduce our new Tuesday night shows. These evenings will alternate between our thrilling full-dome movies and our fun ‘This Month’s Sky’ shows designed to introduce audiences to the night sky and the many astronomical events that take place throughout the year.”

Friday shows during October start at 8 p.m., with a laser light show or a STAR Observatory tour scheduled to follow about an hour later. Kid-themed shows are scheduled Saturdays at 11 a.m. October also includes four Tuesday night shows, all of which begin at 7 p.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 October planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- “This Month’s Sky,” Tuesday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m. As the months and seasons change in Wyoming, new and different astronomical events occur in our nighttime sky. No matter what time of year, there is always something to see after the sun goes down. From constellations to meteor showers to visible planets, this program acts as a guide to these remarkable events and where to find them.

-- “Moons,” Friday, Oct. 7, 8 p.m. Methane lakes, volcanoes of ice, deep chasms and vast oceans can be found on the moon. Celebrate International Observe the Moon Night by experiencing the biggest playground in the solar system: the planetary moons. A Laser Gaga laser light show follows at 9:10 p.m.

-- “Constellations for Beginners,” Saturday, Oct. 8, 11 a.m. For thousands of years, humans have been looking at the stars and using their imaginations to develop wonderful stories about the constellations they create. The constellations include stories of heroes and heroines, monsters and villains, and gods and goddesses. Discover these amazing tales behind the autumn constellations. Patrons who stay after the show can design their own constellations and write their origin stories to win a stellar prize.

 -- “IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System,” Tuesday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m. The sun lies at the center of our solar system, and it is orbited by the eight planets, Pluto and so much more. What other cosmic objects make up our solar system? And where does the solar system end? This film will look beyond the orbit of Pluto to discover that our solar system reaches farther than we could have ever imagined. This program takes audiences on a journey to where our solar system ends and the interstellar medium begins.

-- “Autumn Skies,” Friday, Oct. 14, 8 p.m. With a new school year, football games and autumn stargazing, fall has hit Wyoming. For the next few months, there will be something to see in the sky from sunset to sunrise. Not sure when or where to look? This program will be your guide to Wyoming’s autumn sky and will include which constellations are visible and how to find them; the planets you’ll be able to spot; and when to look for upcoming meteor showers. A STAR Observatory tour (weather permitting) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “This Month’s Sky,” Tuesday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m. As the months and seasons change in Wyoming, new and different astronomical events occur in the night sky. No matter what time of year, there is always something to see after the sun goes down. From constellations to meteor showers to visible planets, this program acts as a guide to these remarkable events and where to find them.

-- “Future Skies,” Friday, Oct. 21, 8 p.m. The sun rises and sets each day; constellations change with the seasons; and planets march across our evening and morning skies. These are the motions of our solar system that humans have witnessed over the centuries. But, the entire universe is constantly evolving, though on a time scale too long for humans to observe. Starting with the present day, and ending billions of years from now, this program will show you the sky’s evolution and how it will appear from Earth in the distant future. A STAR Observatory tour (weather permitting) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Hot and Cold,” Saturday, Oct. 22, 11 a.m. From the hottest stars to the coldest moons, space is full of extremes. This show will make patrons glad to know that the Earth is in a Goldilocks zone: not too hot and not too cold, just right for life to thrive. After the show, visitors can warm up or cool down with a refreshing treat: liquid nitrogen ice cream and hot cocoa.

-- “IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System,” Tuesday, Oct. 25, 7 p.m. The sun lies at the center of our solar system, and it is orbited by the eight planets, Pluto and so much more. What other cosmic objects make up our solar system? And where does the solar system end? This film will look beyond the orbit of Pluto to discover that our solar system reaches farther than we could have ever imagined. This program takes audiences on a journey to where our solar system ends and the interstellar medium begins.

-- “The Spooky Side of Space,” Friday, Oct. 28, 8 p.m. Space is an ever-growing void of darkness, emptiness and the unknown. From black holes to aliens, space can be very scary at times. But, science helps us to learn more about these objects so they become a lot less scary and much more fascinating. Patrons can celebrate the holiday dressed in their favorite costumes and receive a special prize at the door. A Halloween party follows at 9 p.m.


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Chad Baldwin

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