WKU Astronomy News

Hardin Planetarium's Current Show:


25 years of a telescope with vision

                              May 17 - June 30, 2015

Hubble Space Telescope

Launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is still collecting breathtakingly beautiful images of our universe. HST is arguably the most successful scientific instrument in human history, contributing to discoveries that have rewritten our understanding of the cosmos – from planets to the lives of stars, to black holes, quasars, and the large-scale structure of our universe. Join us for a cosmic tour designed around the best and most evocative observations made by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Free of charge and suitable for all ages. 50 minute running time, with time for questions at the end of the presentation. Please note that the show will begin on time, with no late entrance permitted.


Sunday May 17                                 2:00 pm
Tuesday May 19                               7:00 p.m.
Thursday May 21                             7:00 p.m.
Sunday May 24                                 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday May 26                               7:00 p.m.
Thursday May 28                             7:00 p.m.
Sunday May 31                                 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday June 2                                 7:00 p.m.
Thursday June 4                               7:00 p.m.
Sunday June 7                                   2:00 p.m.
Tuesday June 9                                 7:00 p.m.
Thursday June 11                             7:00 p.m.
Sunday June 14                                 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday June 16                               7:00 p.m.
Thursday June 18                             7:00 p.m.
Sunday June 21                                 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday June 23                               7:00 p.m.
Thursday June 25                             7:00 p.m.
Sunday June 26                                 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday June 28                               7:00 p.m.
Thursday June 30                             7:00 p.m.

WKU astronomers, students, and alumni shine at the 223rd Meeting of the American Astronomical Society

The astronomy faculty, students, and alumni were heavily engaged at the 223rd  meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington DC, January 5-9, 2014.  They presented results of their research efforts, engaged in research meetings, and helped organize special sessions at the meeting. The department of Physics and Astronomy, the Institute for Astrophysics and Space Science, the Gatton Academy and external research grants all helped fund faculty and student travel to the meeting.

Dr. Charles H. McGruder III, along with Drs. Strolger, Gelderman and Carini, presented a paper describing the astrometric and photometric accuracy of the Robotically Controlled Telescope (RCT). The RCT is a 1.3m telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, operated by a consortium of institutions led by WKU. This group also met with representatives from the other consortium institutions (South Carolina State University and Villanova University) at the annual RCT board of directors meeting. In addition, Dr. McGruder was a co-organizer of a special session at the meeting entitled “Astronomy Across Africa: A New Dawn”.

Dr. Steven Gibson, along with current WKU student and Gatton Academy alumnus Mary Spraggs, Physics and Astronomy alumnus Jonathan Newton (currently a graduate student at McMaster University in Canada), and other international collaborators, presented results of their search for dark hydrogen gas in the galaxy using data obtained with the Arecibo radio telescope. Dr. Gibson’s students also presented results of their research utilizing data from the Arecibo telescope, the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Canada, the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory, and NASA’s Planck and IRAS satellites. Physics and Astronomy undergraduate Mary Spraggs presented her work on cold interstellar gas clouds and Gatton Academy student James Hughes presented results of his work on molecular clouds in the galaxy.

In addition to his participation in the RCT meeting, Dr. Carini, along with his international collaborators, presented the results of a study of blazar candidates they identified in the field of view of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, utilizing data obtained with the RCT and the Himalayan Chandra Telescope in India. Dr. Carini’s student, Physics and Astronomy undergraduate Josh Williams, presented a paper in a special session entitled ” Developing Our Own Future: Undergraduate Research and Enrichment Through Peer Led Programs”.  In addition, Josh presented the results of his study of a bright Seyfert 1 galaxy using data obtained with the RCT and NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.

Dr. Ting-Hui Lee, a visiting professor in the department, presented the results of her study of the chemical abundance of compact planetary nebula found in the disk of the galaxy. Dr. Jason Boyles, also a visiting professor in the department, co-authored a presentation on the discovery of a pulsar in a triple star system with a millisecond period. This discovery was the subject of a press release at the meeting!

Physics and Astronomy alumnus Dr. Tala Monroe presented one paper and co-authored a second paper describing results of her research on stars similar to our sun, known as solar twins.  Dr. Monroe is currently a post-doctoral research associate at Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil.  Schuyler Wolff, a Gatton Academy and Physics and Astronomy alumnus who is now a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, co-authored an amazing 8 presentations on her work with proto-planetary disks around stars. All three current undergraduate students competed for the American Astronomical Society’s Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award and are anxiously awaiting the results.

Bell Observatory hosts Sunny Sixteen Photography Club

On Friday night, July 12, the Bell Observatory hosted a local group of photography enthusuasts. The group had the opportunity to tour the observatory, gaze at some of the wonders of the night sky though various telescopes set up on the observatory grounds, and engage in some astrophotography.

Bestof the night-MilkyWay

Hardin Planetarium's 2014 summer show:

"Night SkyStories Over a Summer Campfire"

Stars around a campfire

Source: thesouldrifter.tumblr.com

Summer, more than any other season of the year, is a time for star-gazing.  Whether you are lucky enough to observe from a rural setting or find yourself looking skyward from a brightly lit town, this show is designed to help you become more familiar with the star patterns visible in the summer evenings. Share with us the glory of the celestial sphere as we look for ways to help identify them and remember the patterns they make.

Thursday, July 11, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 14, 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, July 16, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 18, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 21, 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, July 23, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 25, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 28, 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, July 30, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 1, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 4, 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, August 6, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 8, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 11, 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, August 13, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 15, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 18, 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, August 20, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, August 22, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday August 24, 2:00 p.m.

More information on the Hardin Planetarium can be found at thier website:http://www.wku.edu/hardinplanetarium/

Hardin Planetarium releases its spring  2014 schedule of public shows

Starry Tales for a Winter Night – 27 December through 10 February
A highly interactive planetarium experience designed to help you find your way around winter’s night skies. Participants will examine star patterns visible in the current evening sky and learn some of the stories our ancestors told to help them remember these patterns. We will also discuss some of the bright stars, planets and other celestial objects of interest in this evening's sky.

Sunday, January 27, 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 29, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 31, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 3, 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, February 5, 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, February 7, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday February 10 2:00 p.m.

Two Small Pieces of Glass – 12 February through 24 March
This planetarium experience combines a 360o immersive “fulldome” movie, Two Small Pieces of Glass, with interactive demonstrations introducing how telescopes help us learn of our place in the cosmos. The movie follows two teenage students who attend a star party. While looking through the astronomer’s telescope, the students, along with the planetarium audience, explore Jupiter’s moons, Saturn’s rings, spiral structure of galaxies and how the largest observatories in the world use these telescopes to explore the mysteries of the universe. Together we learn telescopes work and how the telescope has helped us understand our place in space and how telescopes continue to expand our understanding of the Universe.

The Milky Way: Recycling on a Galactic Scale – 26 March through 12 May (not Easter, 3/31)

December TCCW Observatory Public Night

On 12/12/12, declared as Anti-Doomsday Day, join the Hilltopper Astronomy Club and faculty from WKU’s Department of Physics & Astronomy in the lobby of Thompson Complex Central Wing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 12 for an opportunity to view Asteroid 4179 Toutatis non-encounter with Earth as it makes a close approach to Earth.

Contrary to recent Doomsday predictions, this “potentially hazardous object” will come no closer to Earth than about 18 times the distance of the moon – or about 4.3 million miles. The peanut-shaped, 2.5 miles by 1 mile sized asteroid has passed closer to Earth in the past. Named for the Celtic god Toutatis, the asteroid can be viewed through telescopes in the direction of the constellation Pisces.

The evening is a refreshing excuse to view the heavens and engage in reasoned discourse and rational curiosity to counter Doomsday concerns related to the supposed Mayan prediction of the end of time.

A brief indoor program will be presented if weather conditions do not permit observing. Meet in the lobby of Thompson Complex, Central Wing (next door to the Hardin Planetarium). Admission is free. Participants are encouraged to dress warmly. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

November 30: Bell Observatory all sky camera captures image of Leonid Meteor

The all sky camera at WKU's Bell observatory was used to capture a picture of a meteor from the Leonid Meteor shower. The picture was taken Friday, November 16 by undergraduate student Josh Williams. The meteor is the bright streak in the image. At least one other fainter streak, also a Leonid meteor can be seen in this image.

November 25: Hardin Planetarium's next show:

2012 Doomsday: Predicting an End, or Just a Cycle?

Some say the Mayas predicted the end of the world on December 21st. This interactive presentation takes a light-hearted look at the many "prophecies" and alarmist warnings which claim to know how the world will end, if any of them could be right, and how this craze all got started in the first place.

Free of charge and suitable for all ages. 40 minute running time, with time for questions at the end of the presentation.  Please note that the show will begin on time, with no late entrance permitted. After this event we can SWIPE WKU student IDs for credit toward the student engagement activities transcript (SEAT).


Sunday            November 25  2:00 p.m.
Tuesday          November 27  7:00 p.m.
Thursday        November 29  7:00 p.m.
Sunday            December 2    2:00 p.m.
Tuesday          December 4     7:00 p.m.
Thursday        December 6     7:00 p.m.

Sunday            December 9    2:00 p.m.
Tuesday          December 11   7:00 p.m.
Thursday        December 13   7:00 p.m.
Sunday            December 16  2:00 p.m.
Tuesday          December 18   7:00 p.m.
Thursday        December 20   7:00 p.m.
Sunday            December 23   2:00 p.m.

October 25

Hardin Planetarium's next show:

PlanetQuest: Discovering Worlds Around Other Stars

A new era in the exploration of the universe has begun. Less than twenty years ago, we Earthlings discovered the first alien solar system around a star like our own Sun.  Since then we have used multiple methods to identify thousands of worlds around other stars -- from scorching hot giants orbiting their stars in just a few days to planets orbiting in systems with more than just one star.  New planets are being discovered at an exhilarating pace; bringing us closer to finding an Earthlike world -- perhaps harboring life. Join us for an interactive presentation aiming at one of humanity’s oldest questions: Are we alone?
Free of charge and suitable for all ages. 45 minute running time, with time for questions at the end of the presentation.  Please note that the show will begin on time, with no late entrance permitted.

Tuesday       October 23            7:00 p.m.
Thursday     October 25            7:00 p.m.
Sunday         October 28           2:00 p.m.
Tuesday       October 30            7:00 p.m.
Thursday     November 1          7:00 p.m.
Sunday         November 4         2:00 p.m.
Tuesday       November 6          7:00 p.m.
Thursday     November 8          7:00 p.m.
Sunday         November 11        2:00 p.m.
Tuesday       November 13        7:00 p.m.
Thursday     November 15        7:00 p.m.
Sunday         November 18       2:00 p.m.
Tuesday       November 20       7:00 p.m.

September 15:

Hardin Planetarium's second fall show:

Finding Your Way Around the Autumn Sky

The planetarium's star projector will be used in this program as we examine the patterns in the stars of the Autumn Sky. As the patterns are identified, some of the stories that the ancients associated with these patterns will be shared. In addition, some of the bright stars, planets and other celestial objects of interest in the fall's evening sky will be discussed.
Free of charge and suitable for all ages. 40 minute running time, with time for questions at the end of the presentation.  Please note that the show will begin on time, with no late entrance permitted.


Tuesday          September 18       7:00 p.m.
Thursday        September 20       7:00 p.m.

Sunday            September 23      2:00 p.m.
Tuesday          September 25       7:00 p.m.
Thursday        September 27       7:00 p.m.

Sunday           September 30       2:00 p.m.
Tuesday          October 2              7:00 p.m.
Thursday        October 4              7:00 p.m.

Sunday           October 7               2:00 p.m.
Tuesday          October 9              7:00 p.m.
Thursday        October 11             7:00 p.m.

Sunday           October 14             2:00 p.m.
Tuesday          October 16            7:00 p.m.
Thursday        October 18           7:00 p.m.

Sunday            October 21           2:00 pm

October 23 - November 20 Strange Planets: Discovering Worlds Around Other Stars

More information on the Hardin Planetarium can be found at http://www.wku.edu/physics/hardinplantetarium.php


Public Viewing at the TCCW observatory

Our fall public viewing series kicks off at 7pm on Wednesday September 12. Our primary targets with be Mars and Saturn. We will continue our tradition of a public viewing opportunity the second Wednesday of the month through December.

October 10, 7pm

November 14,7pm

December 12, 7pm


Hardin Planetarium's first fall show: Curiosity on Mars. A Big Rover on a Bold Mission.

NASA landed onto Mars the biggest and most advanced laboratory ever to investigate another planet. The 2000-pound robotic rover named Curiosity started its 98 week mission with a near perfect landing on August 6, 2012. We will talk about the history of Mars exploration, how Curiosity compares to previous missions, and the initial shakedown of the scientific instrumentation. This continuously updated presentation will include the most current news from the red planet. More information and a schedule of show times can be found at http://www.wku.edu/physics/hardinplantetarium.php.


Curiosity Lands!

Over 100 people joined WKU astronomers in watching the landing of NASA's Curiosity mission live in WKU's Hardin Planetarium Sunday, August 5. Visitors to the planetarium enjoyed an evening of astronomy activities culminating with a planetarium presentation describing Curiosity's mission. At the end of the presentation, everyone watched NASA TV and waited breathlessly for word that Curiosity had landed.