The Night Sky Unveiled
Photo courtesy of Dr. Randy W. Olson.

The Night Sky Unveiled

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s first planetarium show of the season, “Aurora!” took place Sept. 14, hypnotizing viewers of all ages.

“I really liked the show, and I learned some stuff too,” said 6-year-old William Fry.

The show gave an in-depth look at the origins behind the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, which takes place every 27 days. In fact, the aurora borealis was visible Sept. 13.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Randy W. Olson.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Randy W. Olson.

It began by taking viewers back to when the northern lights were still a mystery. Early cultures like the Inuit, Norse and Finnish all had their own take on what the lights represented. Some viewed the lights as a blessing, while others were frightened of their intensity and ominous nature.

“It is important for people to understand why this unique phenomenon comes about,” said Planetarium Director Randy Olson. “Auroras happen on Jupiter and Saturn as well, but it took hundreds of years to understand why exactly these strange lights appear in the sky.”

This phenomenon is no longer a mystery. According to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the lights are formed from a collision of electron and proton particles. These particles are fueled by the energy from solar wind coming in contact with a planet’s magnetic field.  Energy is then transferred between the magnetic field and solar wind and a beautiful dance ensues.

The planetarium has more interesting shows to come. “Marsquest,” being shown in November, will give viewers a historical and futuristic look at the life of the mysterious Red Planet. “Winter Wonders” will be shown in December, focusing on the events that take place in the sky during the winter solstice. Each program is designed to give the viewer a unique educational experience on the mysteries of the sky.

“Aurora!” will be shown every Sunday in September at 2 p.m.  It is the first of seven programs shown throughout the year. Running from now until May, a total of 30 showings will be held.

Sophie Stickelmaier


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