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Planetarium launches viewers into galactic topics

Students wait to go inside the planetarium to watch a presentation. Photo provided by Kylie Schwab / Antelope Staff

The UNK Planetarium transports students and the Kearney community across to galaxies to experience what they cannot see from their backyards. 

“The planetarium provides the audience with a view of the sky that you don’t get to see from within town,” said Adam Jensen, the planetarium director. “You would have to go out of town in order to have a similar experience. We can help people know what they are looking at and understand how it moves, why it moves.” 

Shows hosted at the planetarium can be different depending on who’s teaching it from the physics and astronomy department. Alongside Jensen, shows are hosted by Joel Berrier, the department chair, and professors K.W. Trantham, Brandon Marshall and Jeremy Armstrong. 

Berrier is scheduled to present the next show on Dec. 2.

“During a show, I will talk about galaxies and cosmology and run the projectors to show the galaxies that you can see with your eye and talk about those objects,” Berrier said. “I touch on what the universe might look like in the distant future where everything eventually goes dark, and I will turn down lights in the room and leave you in a black room for a few moments.” 

UNK added the planetarium in Bruner Hall in 2009 for students and the community to share, enjoy and learn from.

Out of the three University of Nebraska system schools, UNK is the only one that gives students the opportunity to study astronomy as a major. Having the planetarium on campus not only helps students have a hands-on experience, but it is also used to recruit incoming students.  

Not only does UNK’s planetarium attract people in the Kearney community, but it also fascinates people in the surrounding communities. Communities west of Kearney do not have the opportunity to experience the view of a planetarium. 

“If I am correct, we are really the only places with a planetarium from here to Denver besides Hastings,” Jensen said. “East of Kearney there are a couple, UNL and UNO have one, but from Kearney to Denver there is not much, so we’re kind of a last stop.”

The UNK Planetarium was affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic and closed when in-person classes were canceled in spring 2020. At the beginning of the fall 2020 school year, the Planetarium reopened while following CDC mask and social distancing rules. 

In the fall of 2021, the Planetarium reopened without masks and social distancing rules.

The UNK Planetarium offers shows every first Friday of every month called, “Astro Fridays.” Those shows are open to anyone on campus, in the community or surrounding communities. The planetarium also offers private shows for clubs and organizations on campus as well as school field trips.

Tickets are sold one week before shows. The show hosts urge people to get tickets as soon as possible once sales open because shows sell out fast. 

The next show called “Star Stories: A Tour of the Night Sky” is at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on  Dec. 2.

“This December I will be giving two talks on constellations and stars you can see in the sky,” Berrier said. “Also, a little bit about the mythology with different constellations and about some of the actual stars and some of the interesting properties that you see in them.” 

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