Planetarium allows gazing students to look to the stars

Douglas M. Kafury

The ceiling in your room probably isn’t very interesting. You probably can’t see the future or objects that are millions of miles away on your ceiling. But if you look at the ceiling of room 108 in Smith Hall, you can see all of that and more.

The Planetarium will host its first public show of 2005, “The Skies of Winter,” at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Brett Ellman, associate professor of physics, has been the director of the planetarium for about a year and a half. He designs the shows to incorporate the latest discoveries in the universe, providing a relaxing experience, he said.

The show will display stars and constellations that would normally be seen during a typical winter night in Kent, but without the distraction of the lights from campus, Ellman said.

The show will also include the stories behind the constellations, as well as the physics that takes place with the stars and other celestial objects.

One unique aspect of the planetarium is its ability to speed up the movement of the stars. By simply watching the sky, it would take months to see the courses that stars and planets travel. By using the planetarium, the viewer can see these motions in a matter of seconds, said Thomas Emmons, retired physics professor and former director of the planetarium.

Senior physics major Stephen Daigle has attended planetarium shows in the past and encourages all students to come and enjoy the show.

“The show is very cool because it seems like you’re really looking at the night sky, when you’re actually just in a classroom,” Daigle said.

The public shows differ from the shows presented during class sessions, which are mainly used for factual information. The public shows are intended to entertain and enlighten the audience, Ellman said.

“The feedback I’ve gotten is very positive,” Ellman said. “They find it exciting and relaxing. If the audience enjoys themselves, and if it makes a few of them look at the sky, I don’t care if they can identify the constellations. If they can just look at it and feel a sense of wonder, I’ve succeeded.”

The planetarium presents more than 100 shows every year to more than 10,000 people, according to the planetarium’s Web site. It is one of the largest community outreach programs at the university, Ellman said.

The shows are free and open to the public, but those who wish to attend need to make reservations for the show, due to limited seating.

Each show will last for about an hour, so shows may not be suitable for children under the age of six, Ellman said.

You can make reservations for any of the shows by calling (330) 672-2246. For more information on the planetarium, contact Ellman at (330) 672-9575.

Contact science reporter Douglas M. Kafury at [email protected].