Thoughts of boldly going where no man has gone before may be evoked in viewersminds as the lights dim in the WVU Tomchin Planetarium for its latest showing. Narrated by actor Patrick Stewart, who portrayed Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation , Mars Quest provides a brief history of the Red Planet in astronomy, popular culture and space exploration.
The show premiered during a Friday night in August and also had showings in September and October. Presentations of Mars Quest will resume on the second and fourth Fridays of January through May and the second Friday of June. Two shows, at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., will be provided each night.
On nights of planetarium showings, if the sky is clear, the Tomchin Observatory will be open for public observations. Equipped with a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Celestron telescope, the observatory is located on the roof of Hodges Hall.
During November and December, the planetarium will provide several presentations of a seasonal show, which provides descriptions of the historical, religious and cultural rituals practiced during the time of winter solstice �€traditions of Roman, Jewish and Hopi origin, among others, are examined. The seasonal show is offered at three times on several Friday nights.
Mars Quest is divided into four parts,”Homage,”“Mars In Focus,”“Mars in the Future”and”Rhapsody on a Red Planet.”The educational feature is about 40 minutes long and is suitable for general audiences of fifth graders and older.
“Homage”provides the history of our cultures mythologies and beliefs, from the Roman belief that Mars was the god of war to science fiction films depicting Mars as a haven for vicious aliens.”Mars In Focus”details the Mars of current day as seen in the night sky, through binoculars, telescopes and explorations with probes.”Mars In The Future”examines the possibility of mankind exploring and living on Mars. The final segment,”Rhapsody on A Red Planet,”provides a poetically described futuristic look at mankinds first footsteps on Mars.
The Tomchin Planetarium and Observatory are managed by the Department of Physics in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. The department provides a Web page athttp://www.as.wvu.edu/~planet/mars_quest.htm, which includes a schedule of shows, soundtrack samples and a variety of information about the night sky. Admission is free to the planetarium and observatory, but reservations are required.