Bluegrass Roadtrips: Seeing stars at Hummel Planetarium

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, September 28, 2016

By Kayla Lasure

For those who love the night sky, the Arnim D. Hummel Planetarium offers a chance to be surrounded by stars while it’s still daylight outside.

The Hummel Planetarium opened in November 1988 and is located on Eastern Kentucky University’s campus in Richmond. The planetarium is a three-story building with a dome theater that can seat 194 people. Videos are shown in the dome with the use of six projectors that show images on the walls.

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As visitors walk into the building they can venture through the planetarium gift shop, where items such as a Solar System Model Making Kit or space puzzles can be purchased. Tickets for shows are also purchased at the gift shop desk.

Before the video starts, guests walk downstairs to the first floor to enter the theater room. I went to the 4 p.m. showing of “Awesome Light Episode 3: Chasing Celestial Mysteries.” The video discussed a telescope used by the University of Hawaii that observes supernovae, Britain’s UKIRT (United Kingdom Infrared Telescope) to discover objects in the Milky Way that can be seen by the human eye and a look at asteroids with NASA’s Infrared Telescope. The show lasted a little under 30 minutes.

After each show, employees at the planetarium host a star talk and explore what the night sky will look like that night. The constellations and planets various locations are discussed in detail.

With the start of the fall season, the summer constellations can still be seen but are in a different position than they were at the beginning of summer, according to planetarium employee Aida Bermudez. The summer constellations can now be found more to the west. Sagittarius, Cygnus and Lyra were among 88 constellations that can be seen in the night sky.

I had not been to the planetarium since elementary school, and it was an interesting experience. A cool fact I learned that stuck out to me was about the summer triangle. The summer triangle is an asterism created by the stars Altair, Deneb and Vega. An asterism is a collection of stars that may not by identified as a constellation, such as the big dipper. Also the stars Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra are the brightest ones found in the constellations. 

These stars form an imaginary triangle that once helped people to determine the time of year and the season. If the triangle was to the south, that meant it was either fall or close to it. 

The best part of the experience was feeling like I was there in the movie or in the sky. Unlike a normal movie screen, the dome surrounds a good portion of the room. Images can be seen on almost all sides. It made for a surreal experience.

If you get motion sick fairly easy, you may want to take that into consideration before entering into the theater. Bermudez suggested closing your eyes if someone was feeling motion sick.

Overall for a little venture, visiting the planetarium was a pleasant experience.

For a cheap date night idea or a quick outing for your family, taking a trip to the Hummel Planetarium is informational and fun.