Planetarium has starry sights

Even though it is not as cold as it was a few weeks ago, stargazing is still probably not on the top of your list. Watching the night sky is better saved for those warmer nights spent in the outdoors. Unless you are a die-hard star enthusiast who will stand outside wrapped in layers of clothes, the stars will have to wait for the temperature to rise a bit.     

But wait, there is another solution. Every Friday night the EWU George Stahl Planetarium puts on a star show that will allow you to experience the night sky from the comfort of a padded chair and warmth of room temperature. The show starts at 7 p.m. and is in Room 239 in the Science building. Students get in free, for non-students admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children.

The shows usually last between 30-45 minutes. Even though the presentations may seem short, they leave you with a feeling of awe. The EWU planetarium’s show is a perfect addition to your Friday night plans. Plus, it is free.

The shows cover a variety of topics. The first is usually a brief slide show of the planets, stars and galaxies. Most of these pictures are taken from the Hubble Space Telescope, which provides an amazing amount of clarity. Once the slide show is over the room gets so dark that you cannot even see your hand in front of your face. Slowly the stars start to materialize on the ceiling. It produces quite a strange feeling; at first your mind does not grasp the fact that they are not real stars.

The presenter usually goes over star constellations, Greek mythology and some of them will even cover the life cycle of stars. There are a few different presenters, who are all students. They have to have taken a basic intro to astronomy class, or an equivalent, to be eligible to present. Each presenter has their own unique program that they put on, which adds some variety to the shows.

These shows are not only put on for the public. The majority of these shows are for schools and colleges around the region. EWU is one of the few universities in the area that has a planetarium. From 1999 to 2002 the planetarium gave 830 shows.

These shows have brought children and adults alike to the EWU campus, some of which might one day attend the university partly because of this experience. The planetarium shows are especially exciting to young children; these experiences can stay with a child for a lifetime. The planetarium can hold anywhere from 10-12 shows a week for various groups ranging from pre-school classes to senior citizen groups.

The George Stahl Planetarium was built in 1963, a year after the science building was built. The planetarium was named after George Stahl, a physics professor at the time who retired in 1978. After his retirement Gibbs took over the management of the planetarium, securing grant funding to run the shows.

The planetarium used to be completely free, but when Gibbs retired a few years ago, his grant funding went with him. Debbie Moradi, the physics secretary, has taken over as the planetarium’s manager.

In order to keep the projector up and running, she must bring in a little money to replace parts and such. The projector that is used now is over 40 years old, and she has looked into buying a new one, but the price tag is just too high: anywhere from $130,000 to $150,000.

If you are interested in the stars, looking for a cheap date, or maybe just bored on Friday night, stop by the planetarium and experience the stars. EWU is lucky to have the ability to bring the stars to students and the public alike, even when the weather obscures our vision of the real night sky.

About Mike Childress

Mike Childress currently serves the IT Application & Web Development team as a front-end developer specializing in UI/UX design, HTML5, CSS3 and the WordPress platform. More on Mike...

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