Frostburg State University: A Speck in the Universe
The Multimedia Learning Center (MLC) hosts weekly planetarium shows on Sunday evenings in the cylinder-shaped wing of the CCIT building, Room 186. Each planetarium show shares information on recent ‘Space News,’ ‘The Sky Tonight,’ and a special topic. Special topics are changed monthly to provide variation in information. When weather and sky conditions permit, university telescopes are utilized to locate and observe celestial objects studied during the show. Shows take place at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. nearly every Sunday of each semester.
The planetarium special topic for the month of November is a ‘Tour of the Universe.’ The Tour explores the Milky Way – that galaxy that our planet Earth calls home – as well as neighboring galaxies, and the distance of those galaxies and their part in the universe.
As students and the general public file into the dim-lit dome, the brand new, comfortable, reclining seats quickly fill up. Admission is free, and the crowd is noticeably diverse. Some FSU students attend if their courses offer extra credit for planetarium show attendance, while families and community members join in on the exploration out of pure curiosity. No matter the circumstance, each audience member leaves with a new understanding of the universe and an insight into extra-terrestrial information.
The ‘Space News’ and “The Sky Tonight’ portions of the show take a quick glimpse into outer space’s current situation. The projector splashes an ever familiar image of Frostburg State’s campus onto the entirety of the dome-shaped screen. The sunlight is manually dimmed, and audience members are able to clearly view the sky above the well-acquainted dorms and class buildings. Without clouds or mountains taking away from the sky view, the presenter connects constellations and helps onlookers learn tactics to identify stars and in-view planets on their own. The stars and planets in current view change based on the date and time of year. Each visit to a planetarium show allows for different sightings and happenings.
The ‘Tour of the Universe’ topic gives extensive information on our very own galaxy and compares it to other galaxies and their sizes and distances in the unit of light years. Physical appearances and characteristics of separate galaxies are also noted. Just 100 short years ago, scientists and regular individuals alike had no idea what our enormous universe entailed. The fairly new information was strongly debated for many years, and still to this day, there is plenty more in space to be understood.
Audience members were left with the Douglas Adams quote, “Space is big. Really big.”
Shows typically last about 40-45 minutes, with time for questions available following the presentation. For more information on FSU’s planetarium or a full schedule of show topics and dates, visit http://www.frostburg.edu/planetarium/index.htm .
Universe image courtesy of www.nasa.gov.