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UW Planetarium Offers Plenty of Shows and Related Activities During July

June 29, 2017
picture of planet, half light and half dark
More than fireworks light up the Earth’s night sky. The solar wind interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field to create a stunning halo of Northern Lights like the ones seen in this image. Visit the UW Planetarium to discover more stunning phenomena that occur on the Earth and beyond. (UW Planetarium Photo)

Shows dedicated to exploring the planet, solar system, galaxy and universe around us as well as activities related to the Aug. 21 eclipse are part of the July schedule at the University of Wyoming Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium.

“This month brings a lot of activity to the UW Planetarium. Our second annual Summer of Astronomy Activity Challenge is in full swing,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “See our website to download our activity book; discover stargazing opportunities for the summer; and win fun prizes.”

Friday planetarium shows during July 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 three Tuesday night shows; they 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.-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 July planetarium schedule is:

-- “Our Closest Star,” Friday, July 7, 8 p.m. What is Earth’s closest star? It is the sun, only 8.5 light-minutes away from our small blue planet. We tend to not give proper reverence to the massive ball of nuclear fusion at the center of our solar system, Ogden says. This show will travel 93 million miles to the center of our sun and back to the invisible force field -- the magnetic field -- that protects the Earth from the sun’s destructive winds. The discussion will include what the sun is and the many ways it affects us -- good and bad -- on Earth. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Moons,” Saturday, July 8, 11 a.m. The moon is not just craters, but methane lakes, volcanoes of ice, deep chasms and vast oceans. Celebrate summer and the stargazing nights it brings by experiencing the biggest playground in the solar system: the planetary moons. After the show, visitors can discover the reasons for the moon’s phases and the role the lunar orbit plays in the upcoming solar eclipse.

-- “This Month’s Sky,” Tuesday, July 11, 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 a guide to these remarkable events and where to find them.

-- “Gaia,” Friday, July 14, 8 p.m.  The ancient Greek word “Gaia” means “land” or “earth” when translated to modern English. The mythological figure Gaia was the mother of existence and represents our home planet. This program takes a closer look at Earth and the role it plays in the creation and maintenance of life on the planet. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- Full-dome movie: "Phantom of the Universe: The Hunt for Dark Matter,” Tuesday, July 18, 7 p.m.Phantom of the Universe” is an exploration of dark matter, from the Big Bang to its anticipated discovery at the Large Hadron Collider. This new full-dome planetarium movie reveals the first hints of dark matter’s existence through the eyes of Fritz Zwicky, the scientist who coined the term "dark matter." It describes the astral choreography witnessed by Vera Rubin in the Andromeda galaxy and, then, plummets deep underground to see the most sensitive dark matter detector on Earth. From there, it journeys across space and time to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, speeding alongside particles before they collide in visually stunning explosions of light and sound, all while learning how scientists around the world collaborate to track down the constituents of dark matter.

 -- “Overcoming Armageddon,” Friday, July 21, 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 modern society, armed with 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.

-- “This Month’s Sky,” Tuesday, July 25, 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 a guide to these remarkable events and where to find them.

-- “The Great American Eclipse 2017,” Friday, July 28, 8 p.m. A rare and extraordinary event is coming this summer -- a total eclipse of the sun Aug. 21. This interactive show is about the solar eclipse phenomenon: the sun/Earth/moon system; why eclipses are extraordinary; what astronomers are hoping to discover; and how to safely view the partial or total solar eclipse. Learn everything you need to know about the Great American Eclipse 2017. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

The planetarium will be closed Tuesday, July 4, and Saturday, July 22, for regular maintenance.


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Chad Baldwin

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