“We want to show people that there is so much more to the Emera Astronomy Center than just astronomy” Shawn Laatsch, the center’s director, said. This semester, the Emera Astronomy Center will be offering a variety of programs to utilize their new and innovative space.
The center, which was built in 2014, offers public programs on Friday nights at 7 p.m. and children’s programs on 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, rotating a new title for viewing every month. In January, the center features “From Earth to the Universe,” which explores looking at universe from ancient time looking forward, “and of course we always include a tour of the night sky, things like that,” Laatsch said.
The center has also partnered with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra to present “Stars,” a program that features music from the Star Wars series, in February. “They’re going to be doing the music of Star Wars alongside the show,” Laatsch said. Just prior to each public program on Friday nights, there will be a musical concert featuring the Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s quartet, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra Youth Symphony, as well as a few University of Maine groups doing performances as part of that program.
In March, the center will feature a new program called “Asteroid Mission Extreme.” The program “takes a look at asteroids and is narrated by Sigourney Weaver who makes it a lot of fun,” Laatsch said. In April, the center will partner with the Bangor Public Library to bring an exhibition on the origin of man and will feature a special program called “Natural Selection,” which takes a look at the life of Charles Darwin and how he figures out the process of natural selection. In May, the center will feature a program called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe.” Similar to the well-known story “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” the program is “our version of that except we start on earth and fly out to the universe and explore all kinds of things,” according to Laatsch.
In addition to featuring a new program every month, the center will feature a science lecture series, which is presented at the center the first Thursday night of every month. The lecture series, which began last semester, features a new lecture every month and covers a broad variety of various subjects. On Feb. 2, the lecture will cover Molecular Motors.
“Our big thing is trying to get people to understand that the planetarium is so much more than astronomy now,” Laatsch said of the expansion of programs at the center. “Yes we do astronomy, but we can do things with proteins or micromodels and a whole variety of difference sciences.” The Emera Astronomy Center has been working various departments on campus to expand its program offering. “We have been working with the climate institute and we had one of them do a science lecture for us in December and we brought their data into the dome.”
Since the new planetarium is completely digital, the center is able to facilitate a broader variety of programs. “We can do almost anything. We’ve been trying to get people to use this in a variety of different ways.” The center works with various astronomy classes, but also has begun working with a new course which allows students to visualize their data. “The program gets students to start thinking of ways to create this media.” Laatsch hopes that going forward for the center’s science lecture series that some of the students might get interested in this visualization side and “might be interested in potentially helping us build things for future programs down the line.”
University of Maine students receive as discount on admission to all shows with their MaineCard. For more information on program descriptions and the current offerings at the Emera Center, visitors can go to astro.umaine.edu.