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Planetarium Show Topics


Clemson 2017 Solar Eclipse

Clemson 2017 Solar Eclipse

An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when one planet or moon is lined up between a star and another planet or moon. The term eclipse is most often used to describe either a solar eclipse, when the Moon lines up between the Earth and the Sun, or a lunar eclipse, when the Earth lines up between the Sun and the Moon. An eclipse that involves the Sun, Earth, and Moon can occur only when they are nearly in a straight line, allowing one to body to be hidden behind another. Eclipses can, of course, occur in systems beyond the Earth-Moon: for example, a binary star system can produce eclipses if the plane of the orbit of its stars intersects the observer's position. With the upgraded planetarium, operators can show visitors real-time eclipses as viewed from the ground, or from space.

Stellar Evolution

The Solar System 5 billion years from now

The Solar System
5 billion years from now

Stellar evolution describes the life of a star as it undergoes a sequence of radical changes during its lifetime. Some stars can have a lifetime of a few million years, while others can have a lifetime of over a trillion years. It is believed that the lifetime of a star is inversely related to its mass because large stars use up their fuel quicker than smaller stars. All stars are born from collapsing clouds of gas and dust, often called nebulae. Once a protostar (a large mass that forms by contraction) reaches a state of equilibrium, it becomes what is known as a main sequence star and will be powered by nuclear fusion for most of its life. Some stars, like the Sun, will undergo several processes that will cause it grow in size until they reach the red giant phase. When a star like the sun uses up all its fuel, its core will collapse into a dense white dwarf and the outer layers are expelled as a planetary nebula. Stars that are more than 10 times massive than the sun can explode in a supernova as their iron cores collapse into an extremely dense neutron star or black hole. With Digistar 4, operators can show planetarium visitors the entire life of a star, beginning with its birth in a Milky Way nebula, and ending with its death as a neutron star, black hole, or white dwarf. Visitors can also learn about the eventual fate of our own Sun, as it expands into a red giant (growing in size until it reaches the orbit of Jupiter and beyond), and blows its outer layers off until its core collapses into a white dwarf.

The Milky Way

The Milky Way Galaxy

The Milky Way Galaxy

The Milky Way is the name of the galaxy that we live in. The Milky Way is a disk shaped galaxy and is only one of billions of galaxies in the universe. Our solar system's location in the Milky Way is about 2/3 out from the hot, dense center. In the absence of light sources, parts of the Milky Way are seen as almost linear streaks across the heavens. This is due to its disk shape and looking at our galaxy from a side view, our vantage point from planet Earth. Using the planetarium software, objects in the Milky Way can be viewed at audience request in present, past, or future time. Programs ran in the planetarium allow the Milky Way to be explored from its energy filled center to the outer reaches its spiraling disk.

The Solar System

>A close up view of Saturn's rings

A close up view of Saturn's rings

A solar system is a name for a group of planets, rocks, and other material that orbit a star. Our solar system is the cosmic location where Earth resides. Our solar system is inside the Milky Way Galaxy and is heliocentric, with the sun in the middle and objects orbiting around it. Aside from the sun, our solar system is home to eight planets, moons that orbit them, dwarf planets, the asteroid belt, comets, space dust, and many other interesting celestial objects. Earth is one of the four terrestrial planets orbiting closest to the Sun, while the five gas giants reside outside the asteroid belt. Each of these planets, their moons, or any other object in our solar system can be observed using the planetarium in present, past, or future time. Orbital paths, astronomical distances, or anything the audience requests can be seen using the interactive planetarium software.


A collection of galaxies

A collection of galaxies

Galaxies, by definition, are massive, gravitationally bound systems that consist of stars, stellar remnants, and a mixture of gas, dust, and dark matter. There are more than 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Most are 1,000 to 100,000 parsecs (30.9 trillion kilometers) in diameter. The size of galaxies range anywhere from 10 million stars in the smaller end of the spectrum to 100 million stars at the larger end. Each galaxy orbits its own center of mass. It is believed that many, if not all, galaxies are centralized with super massive black holes. Galaxies are generally categorized based on their visual appearance. The most common form is an elliptical galaxy, which derives its name from its ellipse-shaped light profile. Spiral galaxies are those that are flat and disk shaped with long curving, dusty arms. Smaller galaxies that lack coherent structure and unusually shaped galaxies are referred to as irregular galaxies. These irregular shapes are usually the result of the gravitation pull of nearby galaxies. With the planetarium software it is possible to "fly" to any galaxy in the solar system. Data and statics about the galaxy can be given including overall size and distance from earth.


Constellations visible in the night sky

Constellations visible in the night sky

Constellations, contrary to common belief, are not real. They are simply made up memory aids used to help distinguish which stars are which in the night sky. On a given night with good visibility there are between 1000 and 1500 stars visible to the naked eye. Constellations help identifying specific stars by breaking up the night sky into smaller, more manageable bits. For example, when you see the three stars in a row you immediately recognize Orion. Based on this it is possible to locate Betelgeuse and Bellatrix as the left and right shoulders of the Orion Constellation. From there, it is known that Orion's hunting dog and its corresponding stars are nearby. Today the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has defined 88 official constellation boundaries that successfully include each star in the sky in a single constellation. The shapes seen in the skies by the stars depend on your point of view from earth. Constellations are generally divided into two groups, circumpolar and seasonal. Circumpolar constellations never rise or set; they are always visible in the night sky. Seasonal constellations, on the other hand, change through time due to the Earth's rotation and orbit. These constellations are also affected based on the latitude of you point of view. The Clemson Planetarium provides a show that displays and labels the constellations of the night sky. The shapes of the constellations and the stars, planets, and comets that are included in it are labeled. The program used also allows guests to view the sky at the current time and location through use of projectors on the dome.

Other Show Topics

  • Auroras
  • Air Traffic
  • Satellites
  • Galactic Nebulae
  • Supernova Remnants
  • Black Holes
  • Meteors
  • Motion of the Earth
  • Color of Stars