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UW Planetarium Offers Plethora of Programs About the Cosmos in March

February 23, 2017
stair area decorated for party with balloons
The Harry C. Vaughan UW Planetarium hosts birthday parties for kids and adults of all ages. These parties include a star show, an optional activity, and time for cake and presents. For questions or if you would like to book a party, email planetarium@uwyo.edu. (UW Planetarium Photo)

From spaceships to the upcoming eclipse, March’s schedule at the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium has a little something for everyone.

“From the upcoming eclipse to lesser-known solar system objects, and on to cosmologic exploration, March at the UW Planetarium answers the common questions we have about the universe and our cosmic neighborhood,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “Warmer weather and clear skies are perfect for stargazing and pondering the cosmos.”

Friday planetarium shows during March 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 March planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- “Spaceships,” Saturday, March 4, 11 a.m. How did we send astronauts to the moon? How did we get close-up photos 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. This program will explore these real-life spaceships, from how they fly to where they have been in space. Patrons are welcome to stay after the show to design and create their very own spaceship. 

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

-- “Ice Giants,” Friday, March 10, 8 p.m. Our solar system holds an astounding array of planets, from barren Mercury to the verdant Earth and breathtaking Saturn. However, we tend to forget about the far, mysterious planets in our solar system: the ice giants Uranus and Neptune. After decades of study, we've received some amazing answers about these two frozen giants, but are left with even more intriguing questions. This program will explore these hidden gems in our own solar system. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- A full-dome movie double feature -- “Seeing” and “Back to the Moon for Good” -- Tuesday, March 14, 7 p.m. Ride a photon across the galaxy to your mind's eye and experience how we see. “Seeing” follows a photon’s creation and journey across the galaxy to a young stargazer’s eye. From there, witness the conversion to an electro-chemical impulse that then travels the neuropathways of the brain to the various centers that create the image the brain sees.

Thanks to numerous landers and orbiters, humankind explored and learned a great deal about Earth’s closest neighbor in the 1960s and ‘70s. But, we haven’t been to the moon in more than 40 years. That is about to change. The full-dome feature film “Back to the Moon for Good” follows numerous teams in competition to land on the moon in an attempt to win the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE. Designed to spark creativity and innovation in 21st century space travel, the XPRIZE is inspiring students and citizens to head back to the moon -- for good.

-- “Our Place and Time in Space,” Friday, March 17, 8 p.m. People may sometimes wonder where we are in the universe. But, do they ever think “when” are we in the universe? This program 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 explores the Earth’s place in time and space. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Tour the Solar System,” Saturday, March 18, 11 a.m. There are eight planets in our solar system. But, did you know there are asteroids that fly past Earth or that there are more dwarf planets beyond Pluto? Take a tour of our solar system -- starting at the sun and ending at the edge of the solar system. See and learn about all of the objects familiar and unfamiliar that orbit around the sun. After the show, visitors can explore the scale of our solar system’s planets by experimenting with Play-Doh.

-- “This Month’s Sky,” Tuesday, March 21, 7 p.m. As the months and seasons change in Wyoming, new 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 program acts as your guide to these remarkable events and where to find them.

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

-- A full-dome movie double feature -- “Seeing” and “Back to the Moon for Good” -- Tuesday, March 28, 7 p.m. Ride a photon across the galaxy to your mind's eye and experience how we see. “Seeing” follows a photon’s creation and journey across the galaxy to a young stargazer’s eye. From there, witness the conversion to an electro-chemical impulse that then travels the neuropathways of the brain to the various centers that create the image the brain sees.

Thanks to numerous landers and orbiters, humankind explored and learned a great deal about Earth’s closest neighbor in the 1960s and ‘70s. But, we haven’t been to the moon in more than 40 years. That is about to change. The full-dome feature film “Back to the Moon for Good” follows numerous teams in competition to land on the moon in an attempt to win the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE. Designed to spark creativity and innovation in 21st century space travel, the XPRIZE is inspiring students and citizens to head back to the moon -- for good.

-- “Cosmology,” Friday, March 31, 8 p.m. Are we at the center of the universe? How did the universe begin, and how will it end? What existed before the Big Bang? Are there other universes? What is dark matter, and how does it affect our existence? Since antiquity, astronomers have continuously gained a greater understanding of our universe as they attempt to answer these types of questions. This program will focus on astronomical exploration methods to explain how we know what we know. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

Due to World Languages Day, there will be no public shows Friday, March 3.

series of photos showing lunar eclipse
This year boasts a total solar eclipse, but did you know that the moon can be eclipsed, too? This series of images shows the moon entering and exiting from the Earth’s shadow over just a few hours, which causes the moon to darken and sometimes turn red. This creates a “blood moon.” The next total lunar eclipse will take place during January 2018. (UW Planetarium Photo)


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