Campus Life

Planetarium Leaves Crowd Starry-Eyed

Director of Astronomical Activities Scott Austin guided a 60-person audience through the galaxy and beyond as he explained different constellation patterns and distant nebulas, which appeared as projected telescopic images on the UCA Planetarium’s rounded ceiling Sept. 2.

Austin’s lecture was met with several mumbled “oohs” and “ahhs”from the audience during the hour.

“It’s fun to teach the public science and see their reactions,” Austin said.

He has been guiding the planetarium shows at UCA for 15 years.

The first part of the tour began with recognizing patterns in the sky.

Austin said the human brain tries to recognize random patterns and doesn’t forget them, and he pointed out Ursa the Bear, Corona Borealis and Hercules.

“A better telescope is a better resolution,” Austin said, referring to the 14-inch telescope UCA currently houses. Better telescopes, he said, show detailed star clusters.

At the center of the galaxy Sagittarius is visible, a half-man, half-horse figure.

The cloudy rim of the Milky Way can also be viewed late at night.

The ideal way to see the stars is to find a low light-polluted area, Austin said.

Junior Billy Buck has attended several of Austin’s shows in the past and looks forward to each one.

“Every single time I go, I’m always really impressed with what Austin has to offer for us,” Buck said. Austin tacked on a few videos to the Sept. 2 presentation.

Austin elaborated on the Summer Triangle, which is in the shape of a lyre.

Vega, Aquila and Cygnus make up the points on the Summer Triangle.

He also displayed an image from the Hubble telescope of a vibrant and cloudy image of the Ring Nebula.

The bubble-shaped nebula shows the outer edges expanded from the center in what looks like an explosion.

The earth’s sun will most likely “expand” in a few million years, Austin said, based off his research.

This fall, the constellations are water-themed.

Delphinus, Capricorn, Pisces and Andromeda are among some of the few visible patterns in the fall.

Andromeda’s galaxy is known as the oldest visible light and is approximately two million light years away.

For the second part of the show, Austin played several videos and explained more in-depth details and some science behind the universe’s ways.

In reference to UCA’s new science building, Austin said, “There will be big changes in a couple of years.”

The new building will include a new and bigger planetarium.

The planetarium will seat 30 more students and run on a digital system, rather than the mechanical one the building currently has.

“Bigger and better things are coming,” Austin said.

Planetarium shows are the first Wednesday of every month in the Lewis Science Center.

The fall equinox show will be Sept. 23 and the lunar eclipse show will be Sept. 27.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 9 2015 print edition of The Echo.

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