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Published June 29, 2016
There is a lot to see in the state’s summer skies, but the moon takes center stage in a variety of mediums at the Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium during July.
This includes a film that explores a race to the moon sponsored by Google; a program that includes the Earth and the sun; and a couple of opportunities to gaze at the moon during STAR Observatory tours.
“July is a month for bright, colorful nights. Fireworks, meteor showers, planets and more light up the warm summer evenings,” says Samantha Ogden, the planetarium’s coordinator. “And there’s more to see of the summer night sky at the UW Planetarium. Join us this month as we discover the wonders of our solar system, mankind’s exploration throughout time and space, and the mysteries of 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.-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 as follows:
-- “American Astronomy,” Friday, July 1, 8 p.m. Everyone knows that Americans were the first nationality to walk on the moon. But, did you know that they are the only nationality to walk on the moon? Or, that America played significant roles in astronomy even before the Constitution was written? This program will introduce the history and impact that America has wielded in astronomy and how it's benefiting the public now. A Country USA laser light show follows at 9 p.m.
-- “Earth, Sun and Moon,” Saturday, July 2, 11 a.m. The Earth, sun and moon are mankind’s most important solar system objects. The Earth is our home, the sun provides us with light and energy, and the moon is our inspiration for exploration. From the seasons on Earth to gigantic solar flares from the sun, this show will explore all three giant objects and how they interact with each other. After the program, patrons can go to the roof and use a special sun-safe telescope to view the sun and the moon.
-- “Science and Science Fiction,” Friday, July 8, 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 and 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. From wormholes to robots, this program will find the science in the science fiction. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.
-- “Summer Skies,” Friday, July 15, 8 p.m. From the Summer Triangle adjacent to the Milky Way to views of deep-space objects near the center of our galaxy, Wyoming’s summer months lay claim to some of the most beautiful features of our night sky. This in-depth star walk will familiarize audiences with the constellations, planets and astronomical events of this year’s summer sky. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.
-- “Cold Stuff in Space,” Saturday, July 16, 11 a.m. From ice caps to cryovolcanism and liquid methane, outer space can get very, very cold. Enjoy the break from a hot summer’s day, but try not to freeze during this exploration of the universe's coldest objects. After the show, experience a refreshing treat -- liquid nitrogen ice cream -- colder than a January in Laramie.
-- “Full-Dome Movie: Back to the Moon for Good,” Friday, July 22, 8 p.m. Thanks to numerous landers and orbiters, mankind explored and learned a great deal about Earth’s closest neighbor in the 1960s and ’70s. But, America hasn’t been to the moon in more than 40 years. That is about to change. The full-dome feature, “Back to the Moon for Good,” follows numerous teams in competition to land on the moon and 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. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.
-- “Cosmology,” Friday, July 29, 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 show will focus on astronomical exploration methods to explain how we know what we know. A STAR Observatory tour follows at 9 p.m.
-- “Explore Our Solar System,” Saturday, July 30, 11 a.m. Sun, planets and moons, oh my! There is so much in the Earth’s cosmic neighborhood to explore. Travel our solar system in all its beauty and wonder. After the show, patrons can build their own planet, moon or even design their own solar system.