Discover astronomy, laser shows at planetarium

PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY GOLDEN POND PLANETARIUM AND OBSERVATORY

This summer's new show at the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory, "Explore" discusses the human spirit and the desire humans have to go beyond the Earth-Moon system, said Bill Futrell, lead interpreter at the planetarium. Explore showings are 2 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and noon Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Watch stars twinkle and asteroids fly across the 360-degree, 40-foot domed theater screen during shows this spring at the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory, 238 Visitor Center Drive, Golden Pond.

The planetarium is one of three interpretive centers within the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The other centers are The Woodlands Nature Station and the Home Place 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum.

A planetarium can recreate the night sky, using special equipment, from anywhere in the world without the issues of dust and other forms of pollution, cloud cover or light pollution.

Bill Futrell, lead interpreter at the planetarium, said day-programming is based on astronomy and the universe. Tickets cost $6 for adults and $3.50 for youth ages 6 to 18.

The planetarium offers eight shows. Shows are daily and begin at the top of the hour beginning at 10 a.m. The final show of the day begins at 4 p.m. All shows start on time. Due to safety concerns, no admittance to shows will be allowed once doors are closed. Typically, each show is divided into three segments, Futrell said.

"We start with a feature presentation which is like a movie or video that runs about 25 to 30 minutes," he said. "Then we put up the night sky for 10 to 15 minutes. I usually finish off each show with a laser show sampling that lasts about 5 to 10 minutes."

The timing of each show varies based on the show and the interpreter, he added.

This summer's new show, "Explore" was purchased with a grant provided by local Rotary clubs, he said.

"'Explore' is a show about the human spirit and the need we have to go beyond the Earth-Moon system," Futrell said. "Right now, that pretty much means getting to Mars. There is a lot of talk in the show not only about what goes into getting a spacecraft to escape the Earth's gravity and atmosphere to orbit around the Earth to rendezvous with the space station, but also the calculations that go into that."

"Explore" showings are 2 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and noon Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"There's a lot of good information in 'Explore,'" he said. "It also explains how the planets move in the sky."

At 1 p.m. every day, the planetarium shows "Tonight's Sky Camping Under the Stars."

"We interpret the night sky. Using our projector and computer system software, we are able to put up the stars and planets and talk about what folks might see if they were camping at LBL that night," Futrell said. "I do the sky for that particular day they visit … that way guests can look for things later that night that we highlight during the show."

A snippet of the night sky show is included in every planetarium show, he said.

Daytime programming is provided all year. Other shows include "Back to the Moon for Good" at 11 a.m. Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and Firefall at noon Mondays and Fridays, 2 p.m. Tuesdays and 3 p.m. Thursdays.

At night, the planetarium serves as a place for people to rock out and mellow with laser light shows. Tickets cost $8 per seat.

A variety of laser shows hosted this summer will feature music by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and U2. Shows including genres such as vinyl, county, pop and retro also will show. All laser shows are family-friendly.

This summer, the planetarium will offer Laser Metallica for the first time, Futrell said.

"We had such a demand for Metallica," Futrell said. "Based on surveys we do, there are so many people who are going to be excited about Metallica being added."

The first Laser Metallica show is slated for 8 p.m. June 1.

As the summer nights grow warmer and longer, the planetarium will begin hosting Summer Star Parties. Members of the West Kentucky Amateur Astronomers club will meet with the public during the parties. Star parties are free and begin at 8:45 p.m., or when it becomes dark outside, Futrell said.

The first Summer Star Party is scheduled for May 25. However, Futrell warned the parties can be canceled during the spring months due to rain or cloudy skies. If the weather is questionable, call 270-924-2237.

Summer Star Parties will continue June 8 and 22; July 6 and 20; and Aug. 3, 17 and 31.

Futrell encouraged parents to bring their children to LBL during summer vacation to stave off cabin fever and reconnect with nature.

"LBL is a great place to get kids outside … out of the city and into the country so they can see wildlife and walk the trails," he said. "The planetarium is situated right in the center of LBL, so if you do want to take a break from the trails you can come into the air conditioned theater to see and show and get some education along with the educational factor. It's a lot of fun and kids really love it."

On rainy days, the planetarium provides sanctuary to LBL adventurers, Futrell added.

"There's just nothing like the planetarium anywhere else in our region," he said. "Because the screen is shaped like a dome, there are so many more things we can do that you can't in a traditional movie theater. When kids come in here for the first time they really are amazed."

For a complete schedule of planetarium shows and laser shows, visit www.landbetweenthelakes.us.

Reach Mari-Alice Jasper at 270-887-3262 or mjasper@kentuckynewera.com.

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