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Dark Matter, Dwarf Planets Highlight November UW Planetarium Programs

October 27, 2016
view of planet from space, with half lit by sun
It is rare, at lower latitudes, to see the majestic northern lights or aurora borealis, but they shine like a halo around the Earth’s North Pole. Caused by the interaction between the sun’s solar wind and the Earth’s atmosphere, this image captures the northern lights on the nighttime side of Earth in a way that few have seen them before. (UW Planetarium Photo)

The moon, dark matter and dwarf planets are topics of some of the astronomy programs at the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium during November.

“This month at the UW Planetarium offers audiences a wide range of astronomy topics, from our moon to the mystery of dark matter and dark energy,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “Join us this November, and get ready to wow your friends and family with your stellar fun facts at the holiday dinner table.”

Friday shows during November start at 8 p.m., with a STAR Observatory tour scheduled to follow approximately an hour later. Kid-themed shows are scheduled Saturdays at 11 a.m. November 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 November planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- “Our Place in Time and Space,” Friday, Nov. 4, 8 p.m. The public may sometimes wonder where they are in the universe. But, do they ever think “when” they are in the universe? This show takes a look at not only our physical place in the cosmos, but also the unique time in which we exist. From the Big Bang to the ultimate fate of our universe, this program will explore the Earth’s place in time and space. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Max Goes to the Moon,” Saturday, Nov. 5, 11 a.m. Ever wonder what it's like to travel to the moon? In this exciting show based on the award-winning children's book, "Max Goes to the Moon" by Jeffrey Bennett, the public will be taken on just such an adventure. In this first book of the Max Science Adventure series, Max, the dog, and a young girl named Tori take the first trip to the moon since the Apollo era. Along the way, visitors will learn all about the science of the moon and space. Strap in and follow along as Max goes to the moon. After the movie, attendees have a chance to design and build their own rocket or spaceship. 

-- “This Month’s Sky,” Tuesday, Nov. 8, 7 p.m. As the months and seasons change in Wyoming, new and different astronomical events occur in the nighttime sky. No matter what time of year, there always is something to see after the sun goes down. From constellations to meteor showers to visible planets, “This Month’s Sky” program acts as a guide to these remarkable events and where to find them.

-- “Dwarf Planets,” Friday, Nov. 11, 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 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 free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “From Earth to the Universe,” Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m. The night sky, both beautiful and mysterious, has been the subject of campfire stories, ancient myths and awe for thousands of years. A desire to comprehend the universe may well be humanity’s oldest shared intellectual experience. Yet, only recently have people truly begun to grasp their place in the vast cosmos. To learn about this journey of celestial discovery -- from the theories of the ancient Greek astronomers to today’s grandest telescopes -- visitors can experience "From Earth to the Universe."

-- “Dark Energy, Dark Matter and the Future of the Universe,” Friday, Nov. 18, 8 p.m. Recent experiments have shown that less than 5 percent of the universe is comprised of normal matter such as electrons, protons and neutrons. This program will explore the other 95 percent of the universe: dark matter, dark energy and how they impact the future fate of the cosmos. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Our Mother Earth,” Saturday, Nov. 19, 11 a.m. In mankind's exploration of the solar system, it has yet to find any planet similar to our own Earth. What makes our home planet so unique? Why is there life on Earth? This show will take a closer look at our Earth and what makes it such a great planet to live on. Visitors also will be able to create their own planet. Ring systems, craters, colors or moons: What will your planet look like?

 -- “This Month’s Sky,” Tuesday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m. As the months and seasons change in Wyoming, new and different astronomical events occur in the 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 Month’s Sky” program acts as a guide to these remarkable events and where to find them.

-- “From Earth to the Universe,” Tuesday, Nov, 29, 7 p.m. The night sky, both beautiful and mysterious, has been the subject of campfire stories, ancient myths and awe for thousands of years. A desire to comprehend the universe may well be humanity’s oldest shared intellectual experience. Yet, only recently have we truly begun to grasp Earth’s place in the vast cosmos. To learn about this journey of celestial discovery -- from the theories of the ancient Greek astronomers to today’s grandest telescopes -- visitors are invited to experience “From Earth to the Universe.”

The planetarium will be closed during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.


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