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Night Vision: Uranus & Neptune

February 20th, 2017

In this week’s Night Vision, we’ll explore our solar system’s outer ice giants: Uranus* and Neptune. While the nearer planets are easy for anyone to find in the sky, these distant and still-mysterious planets were only detected after the invention of sufficiently-powerful telescopes.

In this week’s show, we’ll outline the story of how we’ve explored these outer planets, from their first detections in the 18th and 19th centuries, to generations later when each was briefly visited by the Voyager 2 probe on its way out of the solar system.

The planets Uranus (left) and Neptune (right) as seen by Voyager 2 in 1986 and 1989. Credit: NASA/JPL

Uranus (left) and Neptune (right) as seen by Voyager 2 in 1986 and 1989, respectively. Credit: NASA/JPL

From those brief encounters, and our distant glimpses from here on Earth, we’ve begun to build a picture of these outer worlds, each with unique characteristics and fascinating moons. You’re invited to join us as we explore our current understanding of Uranus and Neptune. See you there!

*Before the show, all attendees are advised to say the name “Uranus” at least 100 times, or until you stop giggling! … Uranus… Uranus… Urrrr-aaannnn-uuusss…

Night Vision: Uranus & Neptune is presented by Nick Jarvis on Thursday evening, February 23rd, and Saturday evening, February 25th, in the Hansen Dome Theatre at 6:45pm. Tickets available online or at the Clark Planetarium ticket desk. Free for members.

Night Vision: Observing the Sky as an Astronomer

February 14th, 2017

Many people mistakenly believe that they must own a telescope to get started in astronomy. In reality, there are many astronomical phenomena that are observable with a tool you already own: your eyes. These include stars and constellations and how their appearance changes during the night or from one season to the next; the repeating pattern of the moon’s phases; the yearly change in the height, rise and set points of the Sun; and, the motion of planets against the background stars. All of these astronomical phenomena can be easily experienced by making regular observations of the sky over time.

During this program you will experience examples of what can be observed, learn basic sky terminology, and get a short introduction to an astronomical coordinate system that one science writer has described as “ghost lines in the sky”.

Night Vision: Observing the Sky as an Astronomer is presented by Robert Bigelow on Thursday evening, February 16th, and Saturday evening, February 18th, in the Hansen Dome Theatre at 6:45pm. Tickets available online or at the Clark Planetarium ticket desk. Free for members. PLEASE NOTE: Both the Thursday and Saturday presentations are host to students from the University of Utah Astronomy program; public tickets to these presentations are limited to 40 per evening and it is advisable to secure your tickets in advance.

Night Vision: Notorious Nebulae

February 8th, 2017

Our galaxy is much more than just a swirling collection of stars. Various atoms and molecules form giant clouds that cover huge swaths of interstellar space. These nebulae come in a variety of beautiful colors and majestic swirling patters, often many trillions of miles from end to end.

calabash nebula showing death of a star

An image from the Hubble Space Telescope of the Calabash Nebula, currently experiencing the death of a red giant star, and a transformation into a planetary nebula.

In our upcoming Night Vision, we’ll explore how different conditions can produce clouds that reflect starlight like giant multicolored mirrors, obscure background space like ominous beasts, or glow like cosmic ember. We’ll also explore how observing nebulae changed our understanding of stellar evolution, and how atoms and molecules in our own bodies were once thinly dispersed throughout a giant cloud among the stars.

Night Vision: Notorious Nebulae will present live with Brandon Crowley in the Hansen Dome Theatre on Saturday, February 11th, 2017 at 6:45pm. Tickets for Night Vision are just $2 for the public, and free for members. Buy tickets, or see the full Night Vision schedule for this quarter.