The Second Saturday Space Safari has become a tradition to Jacksonville and the surrounding communities. On the second Saturday of the months between December and April, curiosity and knowledge of the constellations merge into one.
The monthly planetarium program returns to room 328 of Martin Hall on March 8. The Safari happens at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., giving the community a chance to explore the cosmos and learn about past stories of constellations.
Each month has a theme, and the theme for March is cosmic serpents.
“I can download pictures from NASA and put on the dome,” explained Dr. Laura Weinkauf, one of the directors of the JSU Planetarium. “Our Planetarium system can also recreate the night sky from any time period up to the year 9999.”
Weinkauf also gave a sneak peek of what is to come for the March Safari. “I will be talking about snake constellations in the sky and some of the stories behind them.”
“We do the cosmic serpents in March because it’s close to St. Patrick’s Day,” explains Weinkauf, “One of the things St. Patrick is famous for is supposedly driving the snakes out of Ireland.”
When asked about what exactly this month’s program has in store, Weinkauf said, “There are three snake constellations. There is a sky snake, which is a dragon, an earth snake and a water snake. The water snake is around other constellations that are water related. The sky snake is more north, close to the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, and is also known as Draco the Dragon.”
“I also show a twenty minute video that explains the wonders of the universe, from the universe to galaxies to stars and down to our own Solar System.”
The program began about twelve years ago, when JSU got the Digistar projector. “Our shows have changed a bit over the years. We’ve played around with what draws people in during certain times of the year,” said Weinkauf. “For the most part, we have settled on the December through April programs.”
“After we got the new system, we found that there was much more traffic in the planetarium than before.” explains Weinkauf.
The Planetarium is equipped with a Digistar 3SP projector, giving the planetarium one of the most advanced systems in the Southeast and has seating for up to thirty people. Given the limited space, it is important to arrive early or buy a ticket beforehand.
The cost of admission is $5 per adult and $2 per child or JSU student. Payment is taken at the door but those who wish to attend are encouraged to buy tickets ahead of time in order to secure seating.
For more information about planetarium programs, contact Dr. Laura Weinkauf at 256-782-5743 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.