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Chad Baldwin

Institutional Communications

Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2929

Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

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UW Planetarium’s February Programs Focus on Dark Matter, Exoplanets and Valentine’s Day

January 26, 2017
color photo of stars with hearts-shaped stars in the picture
In honor of Valentine’s Day, February at the planetarium celebrates love in the constellations. This image depicts the winter constellation, Orion, with heart-shaped stars. The famous constellation is most easily found by looking for the three hearts in a row that make up Orion’s belt. To the upper right of Orion lies a bright red heart, Aldebaran, of the constellation Taurus. And, to the lower left, is an even brighter blue heart: Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. (UW Planetarium Photo)

Dark matter, exoplanets and even a little nod to love spice up February’s schedule at the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium.

“This month at the UW Planetarium explores astronomy’s new and exciting frontiers,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “From the elusive answers about dark matter to the ongoing discoveries of exoplanets, February’s shows tackle the important questions in astronomy and how they affect our everyday lives and the future of our planet.”

Friday planetarium shows during February 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. The month also includes four Tuesday night shows; all 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 February planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- “The Search for Terra Nova,” Friday, Feb. 3, 8 p.m. In 1992, astronomers discovered something fantastic: a planet orbiting another star in the galaxy. Since then, thousands of these planets outside our solar system have been discovered. Exciting and shocking discoveries have been made about exoplanets. Yet, there is still a lot to be learned about these new worlds. Discover the science and history behind detecting exoplanets; the knowledge that has been gathered so far; and the possibility of extending mankind’s reach to the stars. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “The Dark Matter Mystery: Exploring a Cosmic Secret,” Tuesday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m. What keeps galaxies together? What are the building blocks of the universe? Researchers all around the world try to answer these types of questions. Today, researchers know that approximately a quarter of the universe is filled with mysterious glue: dark matter. Scientists know it’s out there, but have no idea of what it is made. This full-dome planetarium movie takes the audience on the biggest quest of contemporary astrophysics: solving the dark matter mystery.

-- “Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Fate of Our Universe,” Friday, Feb. 10, 8 p.m. Recent experiments have shown that less than 5 percent of the universe is comprised of normal matter like electrons, protons and neutrons. Join Daniel Dale, a UW professor of astronomy and physics, as he explores the other 95 percent of the universe: dark matter and dark energy, and how they impact the future of the cosmos. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Introduction to Constellations,” Saturday, Feb. 11, 11 a.m. For thousands of years, humans have been looking at the stars and using their imaginations to develop stories and myths about the constellations they create. The constellations have stories of heroes and heroines, monsters and villains, gods and goddesses, and anything one could imagine. This program will help the audience discover these amazing tales behind the constellations. Patrons are encouraged to stay after the show to design their own two-dimensional or three-dimensional constellation, and write its origin story in order to win a stellar prize.

-- “This Month’s Sky: Love in the Solar System,” Tuesday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m. For centuries, the night sky has been observed by hopeless romantics. This program gets into the spirit of Valentine’s Day to discover the most romantic celestial bodies and systems in the universe, as well as their classic love stories. 

-- “Overcoming Armageddon,” Friday, Feb. 17, 8 p.m. Popular science fiction movies such as “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” explore the danger posed on the Earth by wayward space rocks. Just ask the dinosaurs. The impact could be catastrophic. But, in today’s society, and with our modern technology, how could we protect ourselves from an incoming comet or asteroid? This program will take an in-depth look into the creation and behavior of these small cosmic bodies, and discover why studying something so small can forever change our understanding of the Earth’s future. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “The Dark Matter Mystery: Exploring a Cosmic Secret,” Tuesday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. What keeps galaxies together? What are the building blocks of the universe? Researchers all around the world try to answer these types of questions. Today, researchers know that approximately a quarter of the universe is filled with mysterious glue: dark matter. Scientists know it’s out there, but have no idea of what it is made. This full-dome planetarium movie takes the audience on the biggest quest of contemporary astrophysics: solving the dark matter mystery.

-- “Hiding the Sun: Eclipse 2017,” Friday, Feb. 24, 8 p.m. This summer, one of the rarest and strangest astronomical events is happening: a total solar eclipse. This interactive show will explore the sun and the moon; why eclipses occur here on Earth; and how professional and amateur astronomers alike are preparing to view this year’s Great American Eclipse. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Journey to the Edge of the Solar System,” Saturday, Feb. 25, 11 a.m. The sun, planets and moons. Take a journey through our solar system in all its beauty and wonder -- from the innermost planet of Mercury, all the way to the Oort Cloud, and everywhere in between. After the show, patrons can show off their old and new knowledge of the solar system by designing a postcard from another world.

-- “This Month’s Sky: Love in the Solar System,” Tuesday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m. For centuries, the night sky has been observed by hopeless romantics. This program gets into the spirit of Valentine’s Day to discover the most romantic celestial bodies and systems in the universe as well as their classic love stories. 


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Chad Baldwin

Institutional Communications

Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2929

Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

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