The Royden G. Derrick planetarium at BYU offers weekly outreach shows for community groups and public shows every Friday evening.
The BYU Astronomical Society and astronomy club provide the Friday night shows for the general public. During the week, the Outreach Program at the planetarium presents shows to school groups, youth groups and scout groups in the community. Reservations have to be made in advance for the outreach shows, but Friday shows do not take reservations and are seated on a first-come-first-serve basis. The outreach shows are only $1 per person as a service provided for the community while Friday shows are $2 per person.
Matt McNeff, a junior from Orem majoring in physics, works as a planetarium teacher’s assistant and gives presentations every Thursday night for the outreach program to community groups. McNeff is also a member of the BYU astronomy club that gives presentations at the planetarium. McNeff and his team created a show entitled “Murder on the Solar System Express” for their physics class and first presented it on a Friday night for the general public.
“When I study the stars, universe and everything, I feel I come to understand God better through his creations,” McNeff said. “Every element that’s in the universe, besides helium and hydrogen, was formed in a star, so essentially you and I and everything around us are parts of dead stars. So if you want to get to know yourself a little better, you should come learn about astronomy.”
Nathaly Young, a senior majoring in physics teaching from Cochabamba, Bolivia, works as a teacher’s assistant at the planetarium for the constellation lab. Young also helped create ideas for the Friday night shows and presents in them.
“The planetarium is the only place you can experience the universe first hand because it’s all so far away, but when you’re in the planetarium you almost feel like you’re out in space,” Young said. “One of the most magical things for me is that it can take you anywhere in the universe. We can send you flying through the stars, universe and planets because of the new digistar software.”
During these next few months the winter constellations will be visible for all to observe through the observation deck at the planetarium. If the sky is clear, telescopes are set up for guests to use in observing the constellations. Right under Orion’s belt, the Orion’s nebula will be more visible during the winter months. The moons of Jupiter and the Pleiades star cluster are also visible, and an open star cluster that is composed of seven stars can be seen through a telescope. These three constellations are only clearly visible around this time of the year but will last for a few months.
Astronomy Club President Thayne McCombs has helped present four planetarium shows and enjoys educating the public.
“My favorite part is when people are impressed by the wonders of the universe and learn something new from the show,” McCombs said.
More information is available at planetarium.byu.edu.