Friday, September 22

Planetarium stars astro students’ work


Presenters volunteer time to bolster public outreach

A&E


No one can bring you the entire universe like an astronomy grad
student, and lately they have been working to show you even
more.

In addition to their regular Wednesday night planetarium shows,
astronomy graduate students have been searching the skies for
interesting and original presentations to bring to audiences each
week.

With important donations from the department, secured about two
years ago, the planetarium was given a computer and a data
projector that allowed it to be used not only for planetarium shows
but also for special lectures designed and presented by graduate
students.

“All of the teaching assistants are required to give a
presentation,” said Hornstein, “but everything else is
volunteer based.”

Highly committed student presenters like Shelley Wright feel
that the planetarium shows have been a great addition to their
normal programs.

In addition to the public shows that are offered every Wednesday
during the academic year, organizers of the planetarium have been
presenting shows and special topics for elementary school classes
and private groups throughout the rest of the week.

“It was nice to fix it up and use it for public
outreach,” said Hornstein. “We do presentations for
people from 3 years old to college age.”

Special topics are selected by the presenters themselves, so
most are original creations.

Wright’s presentation, “Life in the Universe,”
explores the possibilities of extraterrestrial life and
intelligence.

“We get to choose whatever we’re interested
in,” she said. “If someone else did a presentation on
life in the universe, it would be an entirely different
show.”

Next week’s special topic will be on galaxies, and creator
Ryan Mallery shares Wright’s enthusiasm.

“I think the shows make the planetarium experience more
informative,” he said. “And it allows the presenter to
talk about an area that he or she is excited to explain.”

The show will cover information about galaxies that Mallery
feels most people will have a limited understanding of.

“I chose this topic because I feel the general public
might not have much understanding or knowledge about galaxies,
i.e., galactic structure, size, classification, composition, and
the distribution of galaxies throughout the universe,” he
said.

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