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UTPA invites public to attend planetarium shows and night sky observation days
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representative
381-2741
Posted: 05/20/2008
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Enter a world of wonder and excitement when you journey to The University of Texas-Pan American this summer to explore the universe in the H-E-B Planetarium or to marvel at the night sky during a weekly Night Sky Observation Session, both free and open to the public.

One of three newly purchased full-dome videos are currently being presented on Fridays each week from 6-9 p.m. with starting times at 6, 6:45, 7:30 and 8:15 p.m. and on Saturdays each week from noon-9 p.m. with starting times at noon, 12:45, 1:30, 2:15, 3, 3:45, 4:30, 5:15, 6, 6:45, 7:30 and 8:15 p.m. Each presentation will also include a showing and discussion of the current night sky, which changes throughout the year.

Overseen by the UTPA Department of Physics and Geology, the 45-year-old planetarium, which has a 20-foot dome and seats 40, was recently equipped with surround sound and a new digital projection system allowing the arm-chair observer to travel through space and time in three dimensions. It was also made handicap accessible and underwent an updating to its reception area, where a number of educational, hands-on exhibits are on display.

The three new full-dome videos, which will rotate weekly, include “Oasis in Space” – a startling and beautiful voyage through our universe, galaxy and solar system in search of liquid water, a key ingredient for life on Earth; “Hubble Vision 2” – a fascinating tour of the cosmos from Earth’s orbit highlighting the best of the Hubble Space Telescope’s incredible images and its exciting discoveries; and “Sky Quest” – an exploration of the stars, planets and constellations, appealing to even the youngest, as told from the viewpoint of an astronomer, starting from her childhood fascination with favorite stars and finding constellations to modern day missions to Mars and the construction of her own mountaintop observatory. As more funds become available, additional videos will be added to the planetarium’s library.

On Tuesdays each week from 7-10 p.m. starting June 3, campus astronomer Dr. Nicholas Pereyra, assisted by astronomy lab graders/instructors will conduct a night sky observing session north of the Physical Science Building using two 10-inch telescopes. Observers can also attend a presentation of one of the videos in the planetarium that same evening at 6, 7, 8 or 9 p.m.

Reservations for planetarium presentations to student groups from pre-K-12th can also be made for Monday through Friday (except holidays), 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Reservations can be made by contacting Lisa Smith, planetarium receptionist, at 956/316-7088 or via e-mail at planetarium@utpa.edu.

The planetarium is located in the Science Building Courtyard which can be located on a campus map at http://www.utpa.edu/mapmenu.cfm. A weekly schedule of H-E-B Planetarium events and videos being presented is available at http://www.utpa.edu/dept/physci/planetarium.htm.

For more information, call 956/316-7088 or e-mail planetarium@utpa.edu.