Spectators watched as the Spitz A3P projector helped teach about the connection between Leap Day and our solar system.

IUP’s Weyandt Hall Planetarium hosted one of its many free planetarium presentations shows Friday. 

IUP’s geoscience department has a small planetarium that has a 30-foot diameter and boasts a 1966 Spitz A3P projector. This scientific tool is utilized by IUP professors in the geoscience department in order to expand on concepts that would otherwise be much more difficult to explain and to comprehend, using the projector as a helpful teaching method. 

The projector is used to aid in the instruction of undergraduates and is used for concepts in courses such as astronomy, as well as for the learning expansion of students in classes for Earth and space science teaching majors. 

The IUP planetarium caters to group visits by middle schools or high schools, scout groups and even adult groups. Dr. Ken Coles is the man in charge if you are looking to splurge on a planetarium adventure of your own, or you could pay a visit to the planetarium during one of the two scheduled shows placed in each semester. 

All of the shows scheduled for the semester are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. 

It is recommended if you are likely to bring a large group to contact Coles in order to let him know ahead of time. It is recommended that your group arrives early in order to arrange for seating. Doors open 15 minutes before the show is to begin, and seating is limited as well as first come, first served. 

All of the planetarium shows begin at 7 p.m. and can range from a half an hour to an hour in length, and visitors are asked to refrain from opening the doors during the show as it will interrupt the light in the room, distract viewers and hurt their eyes. 

The planetarium resides in Weyandt Hall Room 134. Some of the shows that took place during the 2019–20 semesters included a show in October that highlighted information about the outer solar systems unexpectedly containing water.

In December, an astronomy short story student showcase took place, in which IUP undergraduates were able to present their own work with the planetarium tools. 

The show that Coles presented Friday was about the science of calendars and how the idea of a “leap year” came about. He began the show by slowly adapting the audience’s eyes to the dark and pointing out the compass directions while showing the winter night sky rotating above.

He explained some of the positions of constellations such as Orion, Taurus the Bull, Canis Major that contains the star Sirius (the dog star), which brought about the old expression “the dog days” from the time of Roman astronomers and Auriga the charioteer. Coles also pointed out individual stars and some of the phenomena in the night sky that have been considered current events in the astronomy world. 

After his quick exploration of the night winter sky, Coles launched into an eloquent explanation about why a leap day is necessary and explained several aspects of calendar years, months and even the daily solar cycle as well as why it all works the way it does. He went through different kinds of calendars that were attempted and yet failed. 

He explained different aspects of certain calendar years like the Julian Day, multiyear cycles like the Mayan Cycle, Moon Cycle, Julian Calendar Day Cycle, and he spoke briefly about how each calendar system functioned and eventually led into why exactly the extra leap day occurs every four years and why it is so important in the struggle of keeping track of days, years and time in general.  

His presentation of the information was interesting and kept audience members of all ages engaged. 

The next presentation is on Wednesday, April 1, about how the incredible recent photos of the famous black hole were taken. It is explained how, despite the mechanisms of a black hole’s ability to absorb all visible light, it is possible to obtain amazing images of these ever-enthralling phenomena. 

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