July 9, 2008

Residents Can Learn More About the Stars at SHSU Planetarium

By Kristin Edwards, The Huntsville Item, Texas

Jul. 9--During the summer, specific constellations make prominent appearances in the night sky, and stars of various colors are more visible than at any other time during the year.

For Huntsville residents, the summer months also provide a chance to learn more about those stars during special presentations at the Sam Houston State University planetarium.

The presentations will include a seasonal film entitled "The Colors of Summer," followed by a feature presentation called "The Cowboy Astronomer."

"In July and August, we'll be showing a presentation about the constellations which are visible during the summer months called 'The Colors of Summer,'" said Michael Prokosch, SHSU staff laboratory assistant. "In the evening, right after sunset, the constellations Scorpio, Sagittarius and Hercules are visible, and the film discusses each one of those.

"It also tells a specific story about the Corona Borealis and the heart of the scorpion in the Scorpio constellation."

Prokosch said the film will also include information on star color, which is more possible for the human eye to see during the summer.

"The film also talks about star color, because coincidentally, there are a lot of colored stars in the summer months, making them easy to distinguish," he said. "Most of the time when people go outside, they have a difficult time seeing color, and being able to distinguish different colors of stars is usually difficult.

"The summer sky has a lot of exceptions to that rule, and we talk about a lot of the orange, red, blue and yellow stars that become visible during this time of the year."

Following "The Colors of Summer," the planetarium's feature presentation called "The Cowboy Astronomer" will be shown.

"'The Cowboy Astronomer' is narrated by cowboy humorist Baxter Black, who helps the audience explore the stars from a cowboy's point of view," Prokosch said. "After a full day of roping steers, he talks about looking up at the stars as a normal person and discusses constellations based on the stories and folklore surrounding them.

"During the feature, he talks about constellations for all seasons, some of the Native American stories behind the constellations, and some of the names for the stars which people might not always think of."

Prokosch said the films have been shown several times already this summer, both during June and in the beginning of July.

"Most of our attendance so far has been college students getting extra credit for their summer classes, but we also have custom shows for Boy Scout troops from all around the Houston area," he said. "This is definitely the kind of show that audiences of all ages can enjoy. Kids especially love it, and I always stop between movies to ask them for any questions they've always wanted to ask an astronomer."

Considering the cost of traveling to a Houston museum for similar presentations, Prokosch said Huntsville residents are fortunate to have the SHSU planetarium available for use.

"It's still shocking when people come in and say, 'Oh, I didn't know this was here,'" he said. "This planetarium is not intended as a secret. It's a little treasure that Huntsville is very lucky to have, and I'd like to see them take advantage of this being here.

"This is one place that's always cool, always interesting, and you never have to worry about the weather outside. Plus, it's free."

The planetarium is located in the Farrington building, room 102.

The remaining summer shows are scheduled for July 11 at 7 p.m., July 15 at 2 p.m., July 25 at 7 p.m. and July 29 at 2 p.m.

Shows in August are scheduled for August 8 at 7 p.m., August 15 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and August 29 at 7 p.m., and all shows are free.

For more information, visit http://www.shsu.edu/~phy_www or call (936) 294-1601.


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