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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Dec. 8, 2006

Planetarium shows open skies, eyes

by Samantha Beres

Charles Kerton in ISU planetarium

Assistant professor of physics and astronomy Charles Kerton projects an image of the Andromeda Galaxy. Photo by Bob Elbert.

In 1978, when the planetarium was built in the basement of Physics, they took part of a ceiling out so the 20-foot white fiberglass dome could protrude through the first floor. An undergraduate architecture student designed the facility. This made it nicer than it otherwise would have been, said University Professor of physics and astronomy Lee Anne Willson, who wrote the NSF grant to fund the planetarium.

What is it like to sit in this small, circular-shaped room during a show? Recline your seat. As the lights are dimmed, constellations come up and you feel like you are under a perfectly clear sky with no lights or buildings to spoil the view. As your eyes get used to the dark you'll see the Milky Way and perhaps even the occasional shooting star. When deep sky objects are zoomed in upon -- the Andromeda Galaxy is a popular one -- you'll feel like you're going there, flying through the stars.

A recent update to the planetarium is a new computerized projector that gets automatic Internet updates and can project not only the constellations, but pictures, such as a close-up of Jupiter or Mars. It has the ability to replay something such as Mercury transiting the Sun (which happened a couple of weeks ago), or even to zoom in on the Sun.

Graduate students run the planetarium shows. On Dec. 8 and 9, there will be 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows. Enter the Physics building on the northeast side, go downstairs and follow signs. Get there early -- seating is limited to about 30. Star-gazing follows from the observation deck on Zaffarano Physics Addition (weather permitting).


Planetarium shows

Physics Hall basement

Friday, Dec. 8

7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 9

7 p.m. and 8 p.m.