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Warmer weather and later evenings will provide a number of opportunities for stargazers at the University of Wyoming Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium during May.
“May at the UW Planetarium welcomes the warm weather of spring,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “In addition to hosting more evenings up at the STAR Observatory, we will be moving our shows back an hour so that we can showcase and appreciate the many celestial wonders of the season. Join us this month to explore the wonders of the night sky and our place in the universe.”
Friday shows start at 8 p.m. during the summer, with a laser light show or a STAR Observatory tour scheduled to follow approximately an hour later. Kid-themed shows are scheduled Saturdays at 11 a.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 May planetarium schedule is as follows:
-- “Science and Science Fiction,” Friday, May 6, 8 p.m. We've all seen it in the science fiction movies -- flying through space faster than the speed of light, traveling through wormholes, creating artificial intelligence. But, is any of this science fiction actually science fact? This show will explore the science of your favorite science fiction movies, books and TV shows; and see how science fiction inspires pop culture and real science. Get ready to make the jump to light speed. A Michael Jackson laser light show follows at 9:10 p.m.
-- “Our Sun and Moon,” Saturday, May 7, 11 a.m. With warm weather around the corner, it is time to start enjoying longer days under the heat of the sun and stargazing by the light of the moon. The sun and moon are hard to miss when they shine down on us. This program will explore these bright celestial objects in detail. Is the moon really made out of cheese? How hot is the sun? And, is there weather on the sun or the moon? After the show, visitors can go to the roof to take a closer look at the sun and moon. Be sure to not stare at the sun by yourself. Necessary equipment to safely look at the sun will be provided.
-- “Dust, Light, Dust: The Life Cycle of Stars,” Friday, May 13, 8 p.m. Although stars aren't alive, they have extraordinary life cycles. Throughout their lives, they take many interesting and unique forms. Stars are born in clouds of gas, metamorphosis as they fuse the elements of the periodic table and eventually collapse in cataclysmic deaths. During this program, audiences will discover the science behind stellar formation and the various forms they take throughout their life cycle. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.
-- “Orders of Magnitude,” Friday, May 20, 8 p.m. This show will put the scale of the universe into perspective. From the objects we interact with on Earth to the entirety of the visible universe, structures on every order of magnitude will be highlighted. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.
-- “Where Have We Been in Space,” Saturday, May 21, 11 a.m. Did you know that we have sent robots to land on Venus? Or, that we have a probe that is outside of our solar system? Humans have explored a lot of the exciting frontier of outer space. During this show, visitors will learn all about where we have explored -- from astronauts playing golf on the moon to robots flying past Pluto. The program will even take a look at future missions to space, and figure out where people might want to explore one day for themselves. After the show, visitors can stay and enjoy liquid nitrogen ice cream and astronaut food.
-- “Pale Blue Dot,” Friday, May 27, 8 p.m. The Earth may feel very big, but how does it compare in size to other objects in our solar system? Or to the entire universe? In this show, we will start from the small blue dot that we call home, and continue on to discover the overall size of our universe. Find out how the size of the Earth compares to other planets, to the size of the sun, to the size of the Milky Way and to the overall size of the universe. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.