North Texas Daily

Eyes to the sky at UNT planetarium

Eyes to the sky at UNT planetarium

Eyes to the sky at UNT planetarium
July 01
11:37 2013

Renee Hansen / Senior Staff Writer

The curious-eyed little boy handed the dollar to the instructor and tentatively climbed up the stepladder to look through the eyepiece of the microscope pointed directly at the sun. With one eye squinted, the boy looked through the filtered scope, his mouth agape with awe as he exclaimed, “That is awesome!”

Devin Harkins, 7, and his brother Duncan Harkins, 10, were just two of many kids who visited UNT’s Sky Theater, in the Environmental Sciences Building, on Friday as part of the facility’s “Summer Fun in the Planetarium 2013” event. Going on its third year, the event is open every Friday in June and July for all ages to explore the sky theater and watch one of four different kid-friendly shows highlighted on particular days for $3.

The 100-seat domed theater uses a full-color, HD projection system that provides an “immersive experience” to the viewer, said Randall Peters, planetarium manager.

Each show is different and focuses on a different part of Earth. Friday’s show, called “Dinosaur Passage to Pangaea”, sent viewers on a stop-motion animated tour through time and showed how the earth split apart from the supercontinent of Pangaea.

After the show, the audience is thrilled by a virtual rollercoaster through one of Saturn’s moons and then entranced by a projection of the night sky where an instructor points out various constellations, planets and stars.

During the summer, the planetarium is home to Elm Fork Education camp where kids can come to learn more about science as well as go on age group specific field trips, supervisor Marti Lathrop said.

Even for the workers at the planetarium, it’s all about the kids, too.

Physics senior Gage Marshall works at the planetarium and enjoys the benefits of pulling up the night sky on the dome or using the intricate telescopes. But for him there’s one benefit that stands out from the rest.

“I really like when the kids are into it,” Marshall said. “I wish I had something like that when I was their age so when they’re really into it, it makes this job even more fun.”

During the semester, the facility works as one unit with various concentrations.  The building is not only useful for environmental science majors but also astronomy, geography and philosophy Peters said. The combination brings something special to the table.

“We all bring together our particular bent on things and try to look at stuff in different ways,” Peters said.

Another way to look at something differently is through UNT’s Rafes Urban Astronomy Center, which is an observatory located near the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The center is open to the general public every first Saturday of the month.

As Peters said, “Come out and for five bucks see the glories of the universe.”

Photos by Renee Hansen

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