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Saturday, November 28, 2020

A date with the celestial

It can take years for humans to visit Jupiter, but in the span of a few minutes, you can witness the beauty and majesty of the planet and beyond.

The Astronomy Department is hosting a free planetarium show on Monday, Nov. 21 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the planetarium at CSF9. Dale Fields, chair of the Physics and Planetary Sciences Department, will be organizing and hosting the event as well as operating the planetarium.

“People come out and actually see things that they might have never seen. All of our lives tend to be focused forward or sideways on the human level,” Fields said. “A lot of the time we don’t look down below to see what the ground below our feet is doing, nor do we look up overhead to see what the sky is doing. It’s a chance to see something different.”

During the planetarium show, guests will look at local galaxies and how they interact with dark matter, the Solar System, its moons and the surfaces of different worlds, Fields said.

According to Fields, the Astronomy Department has been hosting various astronomy events since the inclusion of the planetarium in the Center for Sciences. For the last six years, the department has hosted two planetarium shows and two telescope nights every semester, Fields said.

“[The event] is focused on seeing all the cool stuff that is out there to see in the universe. It’s a chance to give back,” Fields said. “We could just have them purely for the astronomy classes, but astronomy is something that connects to everyone. Everyone has an interest in the sky.”

According to Fields, in August 2017 the United States will have the best view of a solar eclipse it’s had in a couple decades. Fields will talk about the eclipse and provide a demonstration that shows the path of it as it travels.

“We’ll move the planetarium through time and we can actually see the eclipse going on as we go through time. We’ll watch the moon go over the sun. They happen almost every single year, but they occur at various different places,” Fields said. “We are going to have a good view. California will not be able to see all of it, so you actually have to go up to Oregon or Idaho or Missouri.”

Instructor of astronomy Carolyn Mallory said she is glad that the planetarium is available to students and the community to aid them in understanding the celestial objects and events in the night sky.

“The planetarium is a wonderful resource and can show a lot of different aspects. It can show planets, of course, it can show the whole Solar System, which is delightful. It can show galaxies and that’s a field of intense research right now,” Mallory said.  “We are really proud of the topics that are being looked at right now. We have the ability to illustrate and make it easy to understand. It enables us to give a better astronomy education.”

For every planetarium event, Fields has some pre-planned talks and demonstrations, but he said that he welcomes the audience to ask questions about what they are interested in learning about space.

“If you want to see Saturn’s rings, we can zip over to Saturn’s rings. A lot of it is what the audience wants to see during the planetary show. I like to talk about what’s in the night sky,” Fields said. “These are various things we can see with a telescope and I just like to put forth these objects if anyone wants to go see them, they can.”

According to Fields, attendance to the planetarium event varies each time. Sometimes there’s a small amount of attendees, other times there’s an overflow of people trying to get into the planetarium.    

“When someone walks in, it’s the same shape, it’s the same curvature as the night sky. It’s like being at home under the night sky,” Mallory said. “There’s enough different ranges of color to both show the sunset and the sunrise, but also to show the different colors of stars. If you could look up to the sky and see red stars and blue stars and yellow stars, it’s more realistic.”

Oscar Callejas, a student in Mallory’s Astronomy 2 class, is undecided about his major but has a great interest in astronomy and space.

“I like astronomy because I like learning about the space and planets and discovering the galaxies,” Callejas said. “I think [the planetarium show will] give me a better understanding of what and where the stars are and what they do. It’ll give me a better look at the planets and things in the sky.”

Fields said that he hopes that those who attend the events will learn about visible objects in the sky and also realize how vast and huge the universe is in comparison to themselves.

“Hopefully they get the sense that the universe is bigger than them. That as big as problems we might have now, they don’t matter as much in the grand scheme of things,” Fields said. “And that can be frightening, but it can be a little reassuring that we have something greater than us out there. Just the chance to see that the universe is beyond the human level is an important thing.”

Vanessa Arredondo
Assistant News Editor - spring, 2015 Reporter - fall, 2014

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