Planetarium displays night sky beauty

New ‘Galaxies like Dust’ kicked off fall season of educational programs



Guy Worthey, planetarium co-director and WSU astrophysics professor, teaches his audience about constellations and galaxies during his ‘Galaxies like Dust’ show Friday in the WSU Planetarium. He said the planetarium is a perfect date opportunity.

CHLOE GRUNDMEIER, Evergreen reporter

The WSU Planetarium has had a home in Sloan Hall for over 50 years, but very few people knew its educational programs existed until it opened to the public to give everyone an opportunity to learn about the night sky.

“Galaxies like Dust” kicked off its fall public show season this weekend. The show was a combination of a lecture and images projected onto the dome to simulate the night sky.

“We’ve never done a galaxy show before, and it’s really challenging because it’s so much harder to visualize,” said Guy Worthey, planetarium co-director and WSU astrophysics professor. “Our other shows are generally story-telling with fun images — this show is pretty far-out. We wanted to expand things and get universal.”

Worthey helped initiate some of the educational programs displayed at the planetarium three years ago.

Three years ago, Worthey and the planetarium invented the public shows at WSU.

“I think the planetarium is neat and I wanted to share its niftiness with other people,” Worthey said. “People need to connect with the universe a little more, and the planetarium is a great place for that.”

The WSU Planetarium is fairly small, so the staff doesn’t have the ability to pay for pre-written shows. To accommodate this, Worthey and other planetarium staff write and direct all the shows put on in the planetarium. This includes deciding the topics and planning the projections.

“We usually teach people how to find north and other backwoods types of things that are kind of lost knowledge,” Worthey said. “We raise awareness about things like light pollution, why our calendar is the way it is and the basic motions of the sky.”

During this weekend’s show, attendees just about filled the planetarium and were able to interact with the show and each other in the relaxed environment. Worthey gave his lecture and projected the colorful images for them to see.

Kids enjoyed the 3D zoom-ins on galaxies and the feeling of stars shooting past them and were able to understand the lecture due to the simple language Worthey used. Attendees referred to the show as “mind-blowing” and “fascinating.”

Several college students enjoyed the stargazing with their significant others. Worthey said he loves the idea of students using these shows as date opportunities.

“It’s a fun, cheap date that’s better than just going to the movies because you take something with you when you leave,” Worthey said. “We’re not too ambitious here. It’s not like you’re attending a college course, but we want you to learn something.”

Future planetarium public shows include “Solar System Sensation” at the end of September and “Time for Dr. Who” and “Haunted Skies” in October. All shows are held at 7 p.m. Fridays and 5 p.m. Sundays in the WSU Planetarium in Sloan 321. Admission is $5 cash or check and free for children under 6 years old.

“More and more people live in cities and have basically never looked up,” Worthey said.  “We’ve always got surprises for city-dwellers. If you want to learn your place in the universe and touch nature a little more this is a fabulous way to learn that.”