‘The Skies of Winter’ planetarium show takes students on tour of starry night

Allison Remcheck

Hollow music fills the room, rising and falling as clouds float across the black dome overhead. Every once in a while, the image of the moon is projected. Then the lights slowly begin to dim as evening turns to night and blackness takes over. Twinkling stars and racing planets replace the clouds.

The planetarium in Smith Hall provides a much warmer place to view “The Skies of Winter,” one of several shows that will be available to the public this year.

“Tonight, I’m going to be taking you on a tour of the night sky,” began Brett Ellman, associate professor of physics and director of the planetarium. “What I’m going to show you in this room, this planetarium, is exactly what you’d see outside tonight if you were facing north.”

Unlike the real sky, the planetarium sky began to fast-forward its movements and progress through time.

“Now, the ancients used to think that the reason the sky moved like this is because the entire universe was spinning overhead,” he said.

In reality, Earth is spinning around the sun, passing by the stars.

“Constellations are funny things,” he said. “Now, I’ve got to tell you, most constellations look nothing like their name.”

Ellman went on to point out the North Star, the point from which the other constellations can be found.

“When you live in cities like most of us do,” Ellman said, “it’s hard to find the dimmer constellations.”

Ellman pointed out the constellation Orion.

The Greeks believed Orion was a hunter, who was thrown into the sky when a scorpion killed him. It is the most famous constellation in the Northern Hemisphere sky, Ellman said, located 6,000 trillion miles away, which is close for a constellation.

“The night sky is a doorway,” he said. “Every little star in the sky leads you to a place you can’t see without a better eye, which is a telescope.”

Stargazing can help one connect with the past, Ellman said.

“You can look up anytime you want and see the same stars people have been looking at for thousands of years,” Ellman said.

Danielle Swann, sophomore early childhood education major, said she had already been to a couple planetarium shows, and enjoys stargazing at parks and golf courses with her boyfriend, Jake Westfall, a University of Akron student, who also attended the show.

“It’s really relaxing,” Swann said. “This one I think is the winter skies, and I’ve never seen that one before.”

Westfall said he enjoyed the planetarium shows because he gained “free knowledge.”

“You just don’t get to do this every day, so it’s interesting to learn,” he said.

Westfall said he preferred the skies out of state.

“Ohio kind of stinks for stars,” he said, “but if you go out West, it’s a really different world.”

Ellman said there will be another public show in April, and another one before the end of the semester.

“I think an appreciation of the sky is great,” Ellman said, “because otherwise, it’s like living in an art museum and never looking at the art. Everyone needs to look up once in a while.”

Contact science reporter Allison Remcheck at [email protected]