Campus Darcy Daenzer

Planetarium shows return to campus




The days of Oct. 15 and 17 saw the return of Alma College’s planetarium for the first time since 2020 with the showing of Astrology: A Journey Through the Zodiac.

Hosted by Steuard Jensen, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Engineering, the show was an opportunity for students to learn about the history of the zodiac constellations. It was also an opportunity to participate in the fundraising for iGEM’s (Internationally Genetically Engineered Machine) trip to Paris in the spring, where they will compete in the iGEM Jamboree competition.

This competition, where Alma’s team won a silver medal last year, is a chance for institutions all around the world to show off “all of [their] hard work,” said Lexy DeKorte (‘24).

While the show was originally $10 per student, due to “the generous sponsorship of the Center for College and Campus Engagement, (3CE) and the Scots Speaker Series, the…event [became] free to attend,” said DeKorte.

The show was a great reintroduction to the planetarium that many students have not had a chance to experience. It integrated aspects of physics, astronomy and astrology in a digestible manner so that even if one was not familiar with the subject area, it was easy and interesting to follow.

To prepare for the show, “the planetarium dome and projector [had to be set up] to show the stars and planets as they appear on the night of the show.” They also had to “make sure [we] could show the audience where to find the various constellations that [were talked about],” said Jensen. 

Additionally, he had to “prepare a slideshow presentation about the topic of the show…That usually involves some research into the relevant astronomy: What stars are involved…? How are the motions of the sun and planets related to the topic? How can I explain those things to a broad audience who haven’t studied much/any astronomy or physics?” said Jensen.

Particularly for the topic covered for this planetarium show, a lot of research went into regarding “human societies and history: What stories do people tell about these stars? Why have people thought they were important? How do these ideas affect peoples’ lives today” said Jensen.

The show was a very relaxing end to my day. It was nice taking a break from homework to learn about the stars, and I will try to take the information I learned and apply it when I’m next looking up at the sky. 

If you’re like me and saw the show and would gladly go back when they offer another one, or if you missed this show and wish to see a show in the future, you are in luck because future planetarium shows are in the works.

“I am actively working with the CCCE and my own personal and family schedule to make plans for more shows in the future. …Professor Melissa Strait and I had started to run monthly shows in 2019-2020, advertised on campus and at local libraries, but COVID shut those down and she retired a year or two later. But I’m eager to start doing regular presentations again,” said Jensen.

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