Star light, star bright

Stargazing on grandpa’s farm or “up at the cabin” may seem far away when you’re at UW-Eau Claire, said Lauren Likkel, physics and astronomy professor and director of the
planetarium at Eau Claire.

However, there is a chance for students to make memories like these right on campus: with planetarium shows underway at 7 p.m. every Tuesday night in Phillips Hall Planetarium.

The show changes monthly with September’s show being, “More Than Meets the Eye,”  which Likkel described as a multimedia presentation about what things look like in the sky.

“‘More Than Meets the Eye,’ is saying there are some fuzzy things in the sky, but if you had some equipment there’s more there than you can see,” Likkel said. “If you look with the naked eye you see a fuzzy blob but if you look with a telescope, you might see some serious detail.”

Part of Likkel’s responsibilities as the director of the on-campus planetarium is supervising and training the students who run the weekly shows.

During semesters when Likkel finds students who are interested, qualified and well trained, they take over and run the show. She said this semester she has found students she trusts with these responsibilities.

Senior physics major Mandy Neumann, first got involved with the planetarium when she was a sophomore. She said after taking the introductory astronomy course, her interest was captured.

Neumann was looking to fulfill her service learning hours finding an opportunity within the physics department made the planetarium the right fit for Neumann.

For sophomore Nokoma Kohl-Blomsness, who also directs planetarium shows this semester; it meant a fun opportunity to share his passion about stars.

Although themes of shows change monthly, Likkel said some things about the planetarium largely remain the same.

“Students will learn little bits about astronomy, it’s a very accessible science,” Likkel said. “One of the most fun things is reviewing or learning constellations. That’s something that you can just go out at night and if you can just recognize a pattern of stars you feel a connection to the sky. Learning constellations is the biggest reason to go to a planetarium.”

Freshman nursing major Gunner Johnson caught the last show of the September presentation, “More Than Meets the Eye,” Tuesday.

Johnson said he has an interest in the stars and enjoyed being able to look closely at the planets throughout the show.

Next Tuesday, the planetarium will start showing the October show, “Lifestyles of the Stars,” a show about how stars change over time. Likkel describes this show, as being “cutesy.” Students and community members can catch the show every Tuesday in October.