Month: July 2014

UW Planetarium FAQs

Here are answers to questions frequently asked by visitors to our planetarium.

Q. How many people can sit inside the planetarium at once?
A. The room seats a maximum of 40 people.

Q. Who gives the planetarium shows?
A. Our shows are given by astronomy graduate students, UW undergrads of a variety of majors, and members of the Seattle community.  All planetarium presenters are volunteers.

Q. Can I give planetarium shows?
A. Are you any of the following: an astronomy grad student, an astronomy undergrad student, a non-astronomy undergrad student who has taken at least one astronomy class, a member of the Seattle community with a good working knowledge of astronomy?  If so, yes, you can be trained to give planetarium shows.  Email uwplanetarium (at) gmail (dot) com expressing your interest and visit this webpage for more information.  If you are a UW undergrad interested in astronomy outreach, we highly recommend you take ASTR 497.  Please only ask to be trained on the planetarium if you are serious about volunteering and willing to commit to giving at least a few shows each year.

Q. How can I attend a planetarium show?
Currently, we only offer shows for field trip groups, UW groups, and clubs (astronomy clubs, scouts groups).  If those descriptions apply to your group, you can request a show.  You can also attend a planetarium show by taking astronomy 101 or 150 at UW!  The UW planetarium is an educational facility, but if you want to attend a public planetarium, we highly recommend the Pacific Science Center in downtown Seattle.

Q. What is a UW planetarium show like?
All of our presenters like to put their own spin on things, so you’ll never see the same show twice.  Ours is a digital planetarium running Microsoft’s World Wide Telescope software.  About 8 million pixels cover the dome, controlled by 7 computers with 1 TB hard drives and 6 GB RAM apiece.  We can project the 118,000 star Hipparcos catalog, fly through 930,000 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, soar over the rings of Saturn, and type audience queries on the fly to quickly pull up images of anything you want to see.  Our presenters have the ability to control the sky with an X-Box controller, allowing them to walk around the room as they bring up and move images overhead. You can download our software to use on your own computer for free using the link given above!

Q. Who runs the planetarium?
A. The planetarium is primarily run and maintained by astronomy graduate students.  Giada Arney is the current planetarium coordinator, and Nicholas Hunt-Walker is the current technical coordinator.

Q. Your shows are free, but can I donate?
A. Absolutely!!  The easiest way to donate is at this webpage.



Making the most of your planetarium visit

Here are some tips to get the most out of your visit to the UW planetarium.

  1. Ask questions!  Presenters love interactive audiences (just please don’t interrupt your presenter!).
  2. Want to really impress your presenter?  Brush up on a little astronomy knowledge before coming and ask topical questions about recent astronomy discoveries in the news.  Bonus points if you know about a recent UW astronomy discovery.  You can find recent UW astronomy news on our department’s home page.
  3. Please put your phone away when you’re in the planetarium, especially if you’re an adult chaperone. 😦  Texting in front of the young ‘uns sets a bad example, casts light into an otherwise dark room, and makes your presenter grumpy.
  4. There are lots of things to do on campus.  You may want to combine your visit with another activity listed in the UW K-12 resource guide.
  5. After your visit, print out a free star chart and enjoy the night sky.  Or, if it’s cloudy, check out NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.