Imagine experiencing the vast, animated majesty and haunting emptiness of outer space from the comfort of home. Now imagine experiencing that same wonder from the warmth of Bellevue College’s own domed-ceiling planetarium, located conveniently on central campus. Almost as intriguing, right?
Pat Beatie, a retired law enforcement officer with a long-standing interest in astronomy, hosts a series of planetarium shows and educational briefings every three months at Bellevue College that are open for anyone to attend. Tickets are free, but prior registration is required for entry if the event is considered “sold out.”
The most recent planetarium showing opened with an interactive segment where Beatie introduced the audience to the fundamentals of astronomy and the speed of light.
The first of the featured shows was called “Violent Universe,” which gave the audience the chance to experience the raw power of the universe and near misses by asteroids and meteors from the safety of their seats. The elaborate show featured real photographs produced by world-renowned telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as invigorating graphic productions that brought to life the collisions of galaxies and gave wonder and shape to the explosions of giant stars to release their contents into space. To date, scientists have confirmed 172 locations on Earth determined to be “impact structures,” such as craters from meteors, asteroids and pieces of comets. Two well-known impact sites include the devastation at Tunguska near the turn of the century and the massive craters near Flagstaff, Arizona, which were caused by an asteroid travelling at 26,000 miles per hour that pummeled the Earth approximately 50,000 years ago. The audience witnessed the forces that hold the universe together and occasionally try to rip it apart.
“Black Holes,” the second film shown, featured the familiar themes of time and space: destruction that leads to creation, and creation that leads to destruction. It featured elaborate animations of the formation of the early universe, star birth and death, the collisions of giant galaxies and the awe-inspiring, simulated trip into a supermassive black hole lurking at the center of our own Milky Way Galaxy.
Beatie also took the time to familiarize the audience with the asterisms and constellations they would have been able to view upon stepping outside—had the sky been cloudless that evening. He introduced the brightest stars in the sky above Bellevue and how to navigate accordingly.