Star gazing in Las Vegas isn’t limited to seeing celebrities on the Strip prancing around in their finest outfits. The College of Southern Nevada’s Planetarium and Observatory offers patrons a more astronomical experience.
The CSN Planetarium at 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave. has been provoking celestial interest since it opened in the late ’70s.
“The shows are very educational,” said Robert Pippin, planetarium manager. “They vary in topics of science and astronomy.”
The theater features an Evans & Sutherland Digistar 5 high-definition hemispheric video projection system that gives voyagers an opportunity to travel through far-away galaxies and explore the universe.
With a library of more than 30 shows, films are switched every two months.
Coming in September will be the showing of “Black Holes, Astronaut and Molecularium: Riding a Snowflake.”
Programs are presented at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Fridays and at 3:30, 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, excluding holidays.
After the show, hosts are available to answer questions from the audience. Planetarium director Andrew Kerr also encourages people to call with any questions about certain objects in the sky.
The planetarium has a seating capacity of 70 people, and there is no late admission. It is the only public planetarium in Southern Nevada.
Its store sells souvenirs, such as freeze-dried NASA ice cream, astronomy guides and other space-related toys.
“We want people to understand science,” Kerr said. “Our mission is to educate people.”
Field trips for school groups are offered at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Educators may choose any two 25-minute program or one 26- to 41-minute program.
When the weather is clear, three telescopes in the observatory compound can be used for viewing the moon and planets after the 8 p.m. showing.
Despite the bright lights of Las Vegas, Kerr said visitors can see the rings of Saturn, moons of Jupiter and the craters and mountains of the moon depending on the time of year.
In addition, the planetarium has hosted popular events, such as the April lunar eclipse viewing, which attracted hundreds of people, according to Kerr.
Astronomers, planetary scientists and comet hunters are often invited to speak at different events.
He added that there would be a total lunar eclipse on Oct. 8 and a partial solar eclipse on Oct. 23.
The building is also home to a tire from Space Shuttle Discovery, which launched July 4, 2006, and was the first American space shuttle to launch on Independence Day. The exhibit features the tire and information about the mission, which marked NASA’s return to flight, following the Columbia disaster in 2003.
“I love seeing the reaction of people when their faces light up after learning something new. No particular astronomical knowledge is needed to enjoy the planetarium,” Kerr said. “It’s for anyone who is interested in science.”
Tickets are $4 for children and seniors and $6 for adults.
For more information about the CSN Planetarium and Observatory, call 702-651-4759 or visit csn.edu/planetarium.
Contact North View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.