The universe viewed indoors

Last Saturday, Bellevue College’s monthly planetarium show was yet again sold out. These shows occur every month on a predetermined Saturday night. The shows are free, but because they are in such high demand, tickets are sold to ensure that everyone has a seat in the planetarium. “They’ve been going on since before I started working here, which was 1994. I think they began when the planetarium opened in the late 1970’s,” said BC astronomy instructor Dan Knight.
The show this month was “Stars,” which showcased the galaxy and the rest of space. The show was about 20 minutes long, but still managed to talk about the formation of the universe, supernovas, nebulas, galaxies, pulsars, moons, the space race, satellites, constellations and many other space-related things. Although not the most technologically advanced, the show was still simultaneously very educational and entertaining to watch.
Once the show ended, Tom Gwilym projected stars onto the dome of the planetarium and talked about planets and constellations in such a detail that could not be expressed in a 20 minute video. Gwilym has been running the shows since March.Knight said that Gwilym “is well qualified. He is past president of the Eastside Astronomical Society and has been giving astronomy talks and presentations for many years.”
Gwilym mentioned Cassini – NASA’s probe that crashed into Saturn – and managed to pull up a visual of what the probe was doing before it crashed. He also taught specifically about the stars in our region of the world. In the Pacific Northwest, certain stars will never set no matter what time of year it is, and Gwilym talked a lot about why this happens, how to identify those stars and why they are significant to modern day astronomers.
The planetarium shows are not only open to Bellevue College’s students, but to the general public as well. Anyone is welcome, much like Bellevue College’s academic programs. “Part of our college mission is to serve the community. One way we fulfill this mission is with planetarium shows for the public and school groups,” Knight said on the topic of opening the viewings to the public.
Eliza Tonnies, a student who attended the show, said, “I think what made the planetarium really wonderful was the atmosphere of the room itself. The dim lighting combined with seeing the stunning night sky projected on the dome above reignited my love of space before he even began teaching.”
According to professors and astronomers, astronomy has major value to every person on the Earth. Knight says that “learning about astronomy is a chance to get our noses out of our everyday problems and think about where we fit into the really big picture. It’s a big, ancient universe we inhabit!” Subsequently, Gwilym said that “a lot of people are so stuck on the ground looking down that they have to look up and realize, wait, we’re very small.” Gwilym went on to reference an episode of Cosmos where Carl Sagan said, “every historical person, ever corrupt politician, everybody in history have all been on this little blue dot.”

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