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Star gazing with a twist

Planetarium offers an educational look at space travel

POSTED: July 7, 2011 1:30 a.m.

The George E. Coleman planetarium at North Georgia College & State University is offering a unique look at the night sky this summer.

The planetarium is offering free educational shows on Friday nights through July.

This summer’s theme is "Blazing the High Frontier," and the program focuses on the history and future of human exploration in space, as well as some detailed information about stars and constellations.

"We start off with an introduction to space exploration. We talk about the Apollo program and the space race, and move all the way through the ending of the shuttle program," said Joseph E. Jones, astronomer and associate professor at NGCSU.

Through use of photos and video, Jones said the show will give the crowd a quick background on where humans have been, and offer some insight into the possible future of human exploration of space.

Jones says, with NASA losing a high percentage of funding and the shuttle program scheduled to come to an end, the future of the American space program may not get off the ground again — some are afraid. He also talked about the debate between members of the scientific community on robotic exploration of space.

"It costs a lot of money, and it’s dangerous to send humans into space. But in my opinion, whenever humans explored, the returns have always been much greater than the cost," Jones said.

After covering the history and future of space exploration, the program focuses on stars and constellations. According to Jones, this is the primary focus of the show .

"What we do is show people what’s up in the sky and how to find it," Jones said.

On clear nights, the program concludes with the audience having the opportunity to go over to the observatory and see first-hand some of the things they just learned about.

"Astronomy is a good way to increase the scientific literacy of the public. Through astronomy, you can learn about many disciplines of science and the universe in general," Jones said.

The planetarium shows begin at 8 p.m. on Fridays, although participants are encouraged to arrive around 7:30 since seating is limited. Once the show begins, the doors are locked, so there are no re-entries or late arrivals.

The planetarium is located on the NGCSU campus in Dahlonega. It is housed in room 234 of the Health and Natural Sciences Building on Sunset Drive. For more information, call the Coleman Planetarium information line at 706-864-1471, or email Jones at jjones@ngcsu.edu



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