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University of Wyoming students won’t be back on campus for more than a month, but the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium will be open in January with weekend educational programs about various planets, cold materials and gas in space, and even comets and asteroids.
“This January at the Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium, audiences will discover the distant frontiers of our solar system and Milky Way galaxy,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “Many of these objects are difficult to observe and, thanks to modern technology, have recently been found and explored.”
Friday night shows start at 7 p.m. during the winter, with a laser light show or a STAR Observatory tour scheduled to follow about an hour later. Kid-themed shows are scheduled Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $3 for students and $4 for nonstudents, and can be purchased at the Department of Physics 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 January planetarium schedule is as follows:
-- “Dwarf Planets,” Friday, Jan. 8, 7 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. The most popular of these controversial objects is Pluto, once the ninth planet in our solar system. This program explores the lesser known members of the planetary minor leagues. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8 p.m.
-- “Infinite Worlds: Planets Beyond Our Sun,” Friday, Jan. 15, 7 p.m. Do you ever look up at the night sky and wonder if there are worlds around the stars that are just like the ones we know? Well, astronomers today are answering this question. Learn about the history and technology behind the search for exoplanets, exoplanet varieties discovered to date, and the relevant information they provide today. A Best of Pink Floyd laser light show follows at 8:10 p.m.
-- “Cold Stuff in Space,” Saturday, Jan. 16, 11 a.m. Try not to freeze during this exploration of the universe's coldest objects, which include ice caps, cryo-volcanism and liquid methane. After the show, experience a treat -- liquid nitrogen ice cream -- colder than Laramie in January.
-- “Tiny Blue Dot,” Friday, Jan. 22, 7 p.m. Earth may feel very big, but how does it compare in size to other objects in our solar system? Or, to the entire universe? This program will start from the tiny blue dot that we call Earth and continue on to discover the overall size of our universe. Discover how the size of Earth compares to other planets, the sun, the Milky Way and to the overall size of the universe. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 8 p.m.
-- “Comets and Asteroids,” Friday, Jan. 29, 7 p.m. Are they bringers of life or of destruction? In the case of our home planet, the answer is both. 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 universe. A Laser Gaga laser light show follows at 8:10 p.m.
-- “Space Gas,” Saturday, Jan. 30, 11 a.m. Space is full of gas -- from the air we breathe to massive planets of gas like Jupiter, and even vast clouds of cold gas lazily drifting through space. This show is all about gas in space and the many places -- from planets to stars, and beyond -- it can be found. After the show, patrons can enjoy fun demonstrations and hands-on activities that explore our invisible atmospheric gas, also known as air.