Planetarium shows open to the public

L.E. Phillips Planetarium offers public shows through December 15

Maggie OBrien

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Photo by Maggie O'Brien

The analog planetarium that was made in the mid 1960’s.

The L.E. Phillips Planetarium is offering $5 public shows from Sept. 22 to Dec. 15 for the UW-Eau Claire community.

These shows are a guided presentation of the night sky in Eau Claire and other astronomical topics. 

According to the L.E. Phillips Planetarium web page, the public shows typically last around 45 minutes to ensure plenty of time for the crowd to ask questions and interact with the speakers throughout and after the show.

The public shows take place every week at 7 p.m. on Thursday nights, through Dec. 15 in the L.E. Phillips Planetarium. The planetarium is located in the north wing of Phillips Science Hall and admission of $5 per guest is paid at the door.

The planetarium shows are suitable for ages 10 and older, as well as for younger guests that are particularly interested in astronomy, according to the UW-Eau Claire events calendar.

Bill Wolf, director of the L.E. Phillips Planetarium, led the public show on Thursday, Oct. 13. Wolf noted the unique experiences of attendees during the public planetarium shows.

“I think there’s a sense of wonder that’s hard to communicate in text when the lights come down and you see this dome and all of a sudden you can be tricked into thinking you’re in this much bigger space,” Wolf said.

Wolf said one of the goals of the public planetarium shows is to inspire people to study the sciences or be aware of them. 

“I at least want to increase science literacy,” Wolf said. “I want people to be curious about what’s going on in the night sky and that’s usually kind of a doorstep to caring how things work in the overall world.”

Wolf explained that the L.E. Phillips Planetarium is often a destination for school field trips, both for younger audiences and UW-Eau Claire students. 

“I’ve had students come in and really enjoy it, I’ve had adults come in and enjoy it and children enjoy it,” Wolf said. “I think it’s something that everyone can enjoy.”

Daina Kalniņa, third-year biology student and student assistant at the planetarium, said one intention of the planetarium shows is to educate viewers in an exciting manner. 

“The planetarium hopes to achieve this by taking complicated ideas like earth’s position, sun’s position, and the motions of our orbit and the planets, and conveying them in such a way that not only creates understanding for the audience but also a sense of wonder and fascination for the incredible place we happen to exist in,” Kalnina said.

Nathan Miller, physics and astronomy professor at the UW-Eau Claire, said the planetarium visits are always something his students remember from the class. 

“After using lecture and homework to discuss the way the night sky behaves, the planetarium draws it all together to be able to see those motions take place within the realistic simulation of the planetarium,” Miller said. 

Miller emphasized the ability of the planetarium to help students understand and fully appreciate the night sky. 

“Once you have seen a planetarium show, you will have a much better idea of what you are looking at when you view one of nature’s true great wonders: the beauty of the night sky seen from a dark location,” Miller said.  

For more information about the public shows and directions to the planetarium and parking, check out the L.E. Phillips Planetarium web page.

O’Brien can be reached at [email protected].