Planetarium reopens

Story by Zack Katz, Copy Editor

For over fifty years, the university has been home to the L.E. Phillips Planetarium. A lack of a student and community audience forced the facility to be closed last year.

However, as of Feb. 2, the Physics and Astronomy department reopened the planetarium with its monthly feature presentation, Constellations, Myths and Legends.

UW-Eau Claire’s planetarium was built in 1965 for the purpose of educating astronomy classes. Today, Planetarium Director Lauren Likkel, who has been running the facility for ten years, said Phillips Planetarium hosts a wider range of interests, including public shows, school field trips and community groups.

“The planetarium is a facility that will present a description of the night sky,” Likkel said. “It means that you can show the motion of the sky at a fast pace, and how things would look at a different time or latitude.”

The planetarium holds public showings on at 7 p.m. Tuesdays, as well as 11 a.m. Saturdays. For the most part, Likkel said student involvement and interest in the facility has been limited.

“I have audiences that are a primarily community members,” Likkel said. “It really varies — sometimes I’ll have high school students working on a project, and other times I’ll have children’s shows.”

In terms of audience sizes, the planetarium is capable of hosting groups of up to 50 people. However, Likkel said the facility rarely exceeds groups of 30 or 40 at a time.

Beyond the general admission shows on Tuesdays, Saturday children’s shows are aimed to educate children from ages 6 to 12. Student Planetarium Presenter Mandy Neumann said she feels the program is successful in facilitating these children from the community.

“I think the planetarium provides a safe, fun environment for kids to explore the cosmos,” said Neumann. “Also the planetarium allows for continuous clear skies and during winter, it can definitely be a more pleasant alternative to braving a cold night to see a few constellations.”

Likkel and Neumann agree the Planetarium is being overlooked by students, who could benefit educationally from the galaxy display, as well as have some fun getting away from their daily routine.

Neumann said she feels having a planetarium on campus is an educational benefit to anyone — not only those in the Physics and Astronomy Department. The problem, she said, is many students are unaware of what the planetarium has to offer, or even that it exists to begin with.

Freshman Morgan Sturm is among those who have never heard of the campus’ planetarium, but she feels it’s something worth checking out.

“I’ve never actually heard of a planetarium, but the concept sounds like fun,” Sturm said. “Considering you hear students saying there’s nothing going on during the week, this is something to keep in mind.”

The cost of a visit to the L.E. Phillips Planetarium is $2 for students. This month’s feature, Constellations, Myths, and Legends, will run from 7  to 8 p.m Tuesdays.