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YHC observes starry nights

October 8, 2010

Annie Hunter, News Editor

I was seeing stars Friday night.  I didn’t get knocked out or intoxicated.  I didn’t take a spontaneous adventure to Hollywood and rub elbows with the rich and famous.  I spent the evening under the dome in the O. Wayne Rollins Planetarium which, excuse the pun, is pretty stellar.

The last viewing was October1 of the full-dome show Awesome Light:  Discoveries from the Telescopes of Maunakea.  The academic-focused production covered the findings from Hawaii’s three major telescopes situated on the mountain of Maunakea.  The celestial objects were mind blowing, especially the footage of a supernova, which is  an exploding star.

I was so mesmerized by the visuals that it was easy to get lost in all the information and tune out the audio.  To be honest, I can’t remember much about what was said, but I can say it looked phenomenal.  The crowd, which was predominantly from the surrounding area’s senior population, seemed to enjoy it.


Professor Steve Morgan points out celestial objects to students at the observatory located at the Brasstown Valley Resort. Photo by Ashton Jones


Before the show started, Steve Morgan, professor of astronomy and director of the O. Wayne Rollins Planetarium, opened up the digital sky system.  We were able to look at the Milky Way and various constellations, but most excitingly we were able to see Gliese 581g, the new planet discovered this past month.  Gliese 581g is the only planet revolving the red dwarf star Gliese 581, whose orbit is in a habitable zone or “Goldilocks zone.”

This zone is where it’s not too hot and not too cold- hence the fairy tale reference- to sustain life.  While the planet is 20 light-years away and won’t be seeing one of NASA’s toys anytime soon, it’s still pretty cool to say I’ve seen it on the full dome of the planetarium.

My favorite part of the night, hands down, was going up to the observatory located in the Brasstown Valley Resort, which opens up after the show, if it’s a clear night.   It was pretty special to be up on the mountain with all these perfect strangers appreciating the same breathtaking night sky and then getting to examine it more closely on the telescope.  Every student at YHC should take a trip to the observatory at least once just to say they did it.

No doubt, it was a pretty good way to spend a Friday night.  The planetarium will have a Halloween-themed laser concert opening on October 22 called “Fright Light.” And, my friends and I have already made plans to go.  Combining laser, special effects, spinning stars and music, it could be out of this world.

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