Ice Cream Social

Do you ever dream of the crisp, autumn night sky? Isn’t stargazing mesmerizing?

No? Then you’re like me, and you don’t know anything about the stars.

I’ve always been fascinated by the universe’s various balls of glowing gas — their brightness, their shine, their sheer number and domination of the night sky. I’ve tried stargazing before, but my experiences have been less than magical. I have no earthly idea what I am looking at, or too earthly an idea.

I was thrilled to learn that my cosmic ignorance could end forever. I could learn all about the lustrous stars. And I could do it all for free.

Each semester, WKU’s Hardin Planetarium offers free constellation shows. Two to three times a week, a member of the physics and astronomy staff puts on a show explaining the shapes and patterns visible in the seasonal skies.

starworld

“Basically we’re trying to make informal science education free for the general public,” Hardin Planetarium coordinator Ronn Kistler said. “That’s our vision.”

I figured I might as well give it a try.

I arrived at the planetarium a few minutes before the show was scheduled to start. I made myself comfortable in one of the plush seats filling the circular room. There weren’t many people there. A family with young children, some students probably fulfilling a class requirement and a couple curious stragglers were slumped into chairs around me.

The sleepiness immediately set in. It wasn’t from boredom, rather, the room was just too warm and inviting. The lights were dimmed, and my cushy seat was slightly leaned back. It was a giant nap-trap.

Then the show began, and I left my slumber behind for cosmic wonder.

Kistler pointed out notable patterns — the big and little dippers, the summer triangle and all that starry jazz. He described the history of different constellation names. He showed us the sky at different times of night, like an educational, stargazing wizard.

“The idea is to help people enjoy looking at and recognizing what’s in the sky above them at night,” Kistler said.

I did enjoy seeing them. I am far from being an astronomy expert, but I was entertained, and I learned a little bit on the way, as well.

The Planetarium puts on free shows all the time. It’s just one more perk to being a Hilltopper.