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Planetarium presents universe in new light

October 31, 2014

“First Mondays Under the Dome” give students and community members the opportunity to view the solar system in a whole new way.

Physics Professor Eileen Korenic will be leading the monthly presentations.

“Professor Korenic is so passionate about teaching people new things. I’m sure these presentations will continue to be an extension of that passion,” said UWRF marketing and communications student Rachel Klamm.

Nov. 3 will be the next planetarium presentation on the topic of planets. The presentation will be held at 7 p.m. in 201 Ag Science.

“We will view the planets just above their surface,” Korenic said. “We will also fly around the solar system and the milky way along with the edge of the universe digitally.”

Korenic has been leading presentations for the last 15 years. Presentations started with observatory viewings using the telescope. After attendees would be disappointed though due to a cloudy sky, the presentations were expanded to public astronomy talks. That way according to Korenic, people would still be able to enjoy something.

For the first time ever, presentations using the new projector will now be open to the entire River Falls community. In the past, presentations were only open to community groups.

“I love bringing science to the public,” Korenic said. “People don’t want to have to pay to go to a lecture so we think of this as a service that the university provides to the community.”

With a new projector, attendees will be given a better sense of the night sky. They will be able to see the actual colors and brightness of stars along with the effect that city lights have on the sky.

“We are no longer limited to the a view of the star field in the night sky but can fly out and visit planets, or even take our own footage with a fish eye lens and show it,” said Physics Professor James Madsen.

With the old projector viewers could only see constellations on the dome ceiling.

“It was a Spitz planetarium projector that had a high intensity light source and a globe that had the star field machined into to it,” Madsen said. “It was very intricate machinery, and needed regular maintenance. It produced a beautiful representation of the night sky but was not as robust or versatile as the digital projector.”

The funding for the new projector came from the IceCube project office at UW-Madison as part of Madsen’s efforts as the associate director of IceCube. According to Madsen, he worked to receive funding for the past five years.

Korenic also plans to incorporate “Year of China” themes into one of her presentations. The presentation, called “Jade Sky, Astronomy in China,” will show how ancient Chinese viewed what we consider to be fairly common constellations and what they actually saw then they connected star dots in the sky.

For those who think their experience will be like star labs in grade school, think again.

“This is so much more high tech,” Korenic said. “In the star labs, you would sit in this hot plastic that was not very comfortable that only used the light from the room. Star lab was a great introduction, but this is so much more of the night sky.”

The presentation will also remind attendees that they are part of a bigger universe.

“I think studying astronomy is something that just makes you feel part like a bigger reality,” Korenic said. “We get tangled up in our own little knot holes of our life, but there is nothing to take the place of the awe of the universe.”