IUP’s Planetarium recently hosted their latest show called “Winter Wonders” on Feb. 28 in Weyandt Hall.
The planetarium is run by IUP’s Geography, Geology, Environment and Planning Department.
The show was held by Planetarium and Geoscience Department Professor Ken S. Coles, the current caretaker and commentator for all the shows held in past years. The theme “Winter Wonders” explored the 2023 winter sky and its many constellations, such as Orion, Taurus and the Winter Triangle.
Coles has been hosting planetarium shows for 14 years, ever since the first public IUP planetarium show back in 2009.
“Getting paid to run this planetarium is like getting paid to eat ice cream,” Coles joked to the audience before the beginning of the show.
Coles does his best to advertise the planetarium shows, but he is wary of having too many attendees. The planetarium only has 74 seats, and it isn’t safe to have any extra attendants stand in the aisles or off to the side because of how dark it gets.
The shows are typically around 35 minutes each, but the “Winter Wonders'' show ran a little longer, lasting about 42 minutes. Nearly all 74 seats were filled, mostly with older adults and younger children accompanying their parents, but not many IUP students. There were about 70 people in attendance.
The show started and ended with a showcase of the stars via the 1966 Spitz A3P projector which will likely be scrapped for parts and replaced at the end of the year when construction on IUP’s new planetarium is completed. Around the halfway point of the show, Coles had a presentation on some of the different constellations and star systems that could be seen years ago in the winter sky when it was clearer than it is now.
“It's a kind of theater. You see me dancing around, it’s the way I teach,” Coles commented when asked about the “Winter Wonders” show that night.
While working with the Planetarium and Geoscience Department, Coles has produced three shows already this school year, including “Winter Wonders” and plans to have one more this semester. He has yet to announce the dates for the rest of the year, but he hopes to have a few more presentations before the new planetarium opens sometime around the year 2024. Coles says that he is excited to see the technological advancements made in the new planetarium, as well as the range of the computer-generated projector that will be housed there.
Other than shows held for IUP students and the public, Coles also offers demonstrations for classes. He asks that professors who are interested contact him directly, as seats are limited, and he may not be able to fit all the students if it is a large class. But regardless, he is happy to plan and even host multiple shows in order to include everyone.
After the presentation concluded, some IUP students shared their thoughts on the “Winter Wonders.”
“I thought it was cool. I didn’t know that our projector wasn’t computer based so that was cool to watch,” said Caroline Sandman (freshman, ecology, conservation and evolutionary biology). “I had never been inside the planetarium before, so I didn’t know what I was expecting but I enjoyed it a lot because I think stars are really awesome.”
Sandman accompanied her friend to the planetarium, Grace Modlin (junior, data science), who said, “It definitely exceeded my expectations on what was going to happen tonight.”
“I just wanted to go into the planetarium in Weyandt before it moved to the new building,” Modlin commented when asked about how they had heard about the “Winter Wonders” show.
Many of the students who attended the presentation expressed their gratitude of seeing the original planetarium and projector but there were others who showed excitement at the prospect of the new one currently being built.
“I’m definitely more excited for the new one as opposed to this one, especially because I don’t necessarily have a lot of personal attachment to this building,” said Maxine Brandt (sophomore, physics). “It’s sad to see it go but I am very excited for all the new stuff that they are putting into the new building because with better technology comes better results, better research and more that we are able to look at as students.”
Coles would like to give a special thanks to the IUP Geography, Geology, Environment and Planning (GGEP) Department, IUP Kopchick College of Natural Science and Mathematics, IUP School of Graduate Studies and Research, NASA/APOD, as well as Observers and Astrophotographers all over the world.
There will be one more planetarium show before the end of the semester. Be sure to attend on Wednesday, March 29, at 7:00 p.m. in Weyandt Hall, Room 134 for the presentation of “Sampling an Asteroid.”
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