Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Planetarium Shows, Public Star Parties and the End of the World!?

With the start of a new semester already in full swing, there is a lot going on that John C. Wells Planetarium this semester! This month the 2:30pm family show is "Legends of the Sky: Orion", while the the 3:30pm feature show is "Stars of the Pharaohs". Following each show, a live star talk featuring the Harrisonburg night sky will be presented. Both shows are FREE with seats available on a first-come, first-seated basis! You can find our full schedule of shows that will be presented this semester at the Planetarium website.

A brand new initiative we are launching this semester is monthly star parties at Astronomy Park, located in the meadow behind the Physics & Chemistry building. The first star party will take place on Friday, January 27 starting at 7pm with subsequent public observing sessions on the last Friday of each month! Since these observing sessions are weather-dependent, the decision to proceed with observing or to postpone to Saturday (our back-up night) will be made by 4pm on each day. This decision will be published on the Planetarium website, the Planetarium facebook page and via the Planetarium twitter feed. If you have never seen Jupiter with its Galilean satellites, Saturn and its majestic rings, Mars, Venus or even the Moon through a telescope, you definitely do NOT want to miss any of these star parties!

Lastly, with calendar turning the page to 2012, no doubt you have heard of the many ridiculous doomsday scenarios circulating online and in the tabloids you see at the grocery store. All these end-of-the-world prophecies, from the Mayan calendar ending, to the Earth's magnetic field suddenly reversing polarity in 2012, are all baseless and without any scientific merit. I've written my own short "Debunking 2012 Doomsday Prophecies" which you can find at the Planetarium website.

I hope to see many of you at the Planetarium or at a star party this semester!
Clear skies!

Shanil Virani
Director, John C. Wells Planetarium