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UW Planetarium to Celebrate the Eclipse During August

July 27, 2017
image of earth as seen from space with outline of US states superimposed on it
On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will cross the state of Wyoming. From space, we can see what a solar eclipse is: the shadow of the moon crossing over the Earth. In this image, the moon’s shadow (darkened for effect) can be seen crossing Wyoming. To see the eclipse totality, a person will want to stand in this shadow of the moon. (UW Planetarium Photo)

The Great American Eclipse is less than a month away, and the University of Wyoming Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium is recognizing the big event with related programs Aug. 18-19.

“The Great American Eclipse is approaching quickly, along with the end of summer,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “Join us at the Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium for everything that you need to know about making the most of August. From the total solar eclipse to the Perseid Meteor Shower, we will be your guide to day and night stargazing this month.”

Friday planetarium shows during August 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; 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 August planetarium schedule is as follows:

-- Full-dome movie: “Phantom of the Universe: The Hunt for Dark Matter,” Tuesday, Aug. 1, 7 p.m. Phantom of the Universe” is an exciting 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. 

-- “Stellar Evolution,” Friday, Aug. 4, 8 p.m. Scientific elements are the building blocks to everything in existence. Interestingly, scientific elements are defined by the number of protons an element contains (for example, hydrogen has one proton while helium has two). Scientists have observed that protons naturally repel each other, so what happens when the force of gravity is so strong that protons can’t escape each other? This is the defining nature of a star. Watch this show to peer into a star to see nuclear fusion, the life processes of a star and the origins of our elements. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Constellations for Beginners,” Saturday, Aug. 5, 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 -- anything one could imagine. Visitors will discover these amazing tales behind our constellations. Visitors can stay after the show to design their own 2-D or 3-D constellation and write its origin story in order to win a stellar prize.

-- “This Month’s Sky,” Tuesday, Aug. 8, 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.

-- “Pluto Re-classified,” Friday, Aug. 11, 8 p.m. From its discovery in 1930 to reclassification in 2006, Pluto has been a hot topic here in the USA and a favorite among schoolchildren. A common misunderstanding is that Pluto somehow disappeared from our solar system. Pluto is still in orbit around our sun (but not as a planet). This program will remember Pluto: its brief period as a planet; reasons for its reclassification; New Horizons discoveries; and America’s reactions to it all. Welcome to the greatest all-American astronomy controversy of all time. 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, Aug. 15, 7 p.m.Phantom of the Universe” is an exciting 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. 

 -- “Are You Prepared for the Great American Eclipse?,” Friday, Aug. 18, 8 p.m. The Great American Eclipse is coming in three days, and people may have a million questions about it. What is a solar eclipse? What can I expect to see and experience? Where can I go to see it? When is the next one? How can the tiny moon cover the giant sun? This program will answer all of these burning questions regarding the total solar eclipse. Don’t forget to grab a free pair of eclipse glasses so you can safely enjoy the eclipse. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.

-- “Are You Prepared for the Great American Eclipse?,” Saturday, Aug. 19, 11 a.m. The Great American Eclipse is coming in two days, and people may have a million questions about it. What is a solar eclipse? What can I expect to see and experience? Where can I go to see it? When is the next one? How can the tiny moon cover the giant sun? This program will answer all of these burning questions regarding the total solar eclipse. Don’t forget to grab a free pair of eclipse glasses so you can enjoy the eclipse safely. After the show, visitors can use their knowledge of the upcoming solar eclipse to create an eclipse they can hold in their hand.

-- “This Month’s Sky,” Tuesday, Aug. 22, 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.

-- “The Search for ET,” Friday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m. Are we alone in the universe? This deceptively simple question has captivated the imaginations of authors, filmmakers and scientists for centuries. And, as technology improves, methods of searching for potential extraterrestrials (ET) have become more sophisticated. What have we found so far, and what might we discover in the future? This program will tour the solar system and beyond in search of habitable worlds and what ET may look like on those planets. A free STAR Observatory tour (weather dependent) follows at 9 p.m.


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