New planetarium shows to blast off in 2016


January 4, 2016

SUNY Oswego’s planetarium has returned to its regular free shows at 7 p.m. each Sunday, offering “Back to the Moon and on to Mars!” during January and a different presentation each month through June.

The planetarium’s current show—part of college President Deborah F. Stanley’s “Cruisin’ the Campus” community invitation to utilize campus facilities during winter break—reviews the historic Apollo Moon Program. It also previews NASA’s new three-stage plan to take humans to Mars for the first time, and includes an immersive full-dome video about the Google Lunar Xprize competition to land a privately funded robot on the moon.

Planetarium director Dr. Scott Roby of the college’s physics department announced the rest of the spring shows for the state-of-the-art facility on the second floor of the Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation:

In February, the planetarium will unveil a double feature: “Mercury” and “Southern Hemisphere Constellations.” Guest host Dr. John Zielinski of the physics department will discuss interesting properties of Mercury and findings from the recent MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) mission to the planet. Then he will explore notable Southern Hemisphere constellations and objects never seen in Oswego because they are always below the southern horizon. If weather permits, viewing of several objects through a small telescope will take place after the show.

The March show, “The Stars of Spring,” will display the bright stars and constellations in Earth’s spring sky, with a presentation by Roby. Attendees will learn about the Big and Little Bears, Draco the Dragon and Leo the Lion, and witness the strange disappearance of the bright star Regulus two years ago.

In April, Roby said, “Cosmology” will present “the most audacious of scientific inquiries: Let’s study the entire universe!” He will present both evidence and theory about its Big Bang origin and summarize current thinking on how the universe may end in the far distant future.

“Planet Spectacular” will greet planetarium guests in May. In a period of less than 30 days, three notable celestial events will occur and will be demonstrated by Zielinski. On May 9, Mercury will transit in front of the sun. On May 22 and June 3, respectively, Mars and Saturn will reach opposition relative to the sun, making each planet their brightest and also highest in the sky. If weather permits, viewing of several objects through a small telescope will take place after the show.

The June show will feature “The Stars of Summer.” Roby will point out the bright stars and constellations visible on summer evenings and give a lighthearted version of some of the mythological tales behind the constellations, including Cygnus the Swan and Delphinus the Dolphin. The show also includes a 20-minute full-dome video, “Back to the Moon!” Star maps will be provided. 

The planetarium has limited seating, so guests should arrive a bit early, Roby said. Shows are recommended for children ages 4 and older. No food or drink is permitted in the facility. Parking is free in the commuter lot off Washington Boulevard adjacent to Shineman Center and the employee lot off Centennial Boulevard across from it.

PHOTO CAPTION: Celestial excitement—Planetarium-goers view “Pluto Flyby Update” in July at SUNY Oswego’s state-of-the art facility in the Shineman Center. Dr. Scott Roby, planetarium director, recently announced the free shows for each of the first six months of 2016. The first-come, first-served planetarium has limited seating, so guests should arrive a bit early.