Ingram Planetarium offers sights, knowledge that is out of this world

spalisin@thesunnews.comMay 23, 2014 

  • If you go

    What | Sky Theater Dome shows

    Where | Ingram Planetarium, 625 High Market St., Sunset Beach, N.C.

    Open | 10:30 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays

    Schedule | May 23-Sept. 1:

    • 11 a.m. – “Legends of the Night Sky,” for half-price admission

    • 1 p.m. – “Dinosaur Passage to Pangaea”

    • 2 p.m. – “Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure”

    • 3 p.m. – “Undiscovered Worlds”

    • 4 p.m. – “Back to the Moon for Good”

    • 5 p.m. – “Dynamic Earth”

    Laser music shows |

    • Thursdays – Beatles at 6 p.m., “Laser Retro” 7 p.m., and U2 8 p.m.

    • Fridays – “Laser Country” (music by such artists as Garth Brooks, Lee Greenwood, Little Big Town, Willie Nelson, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, and the Zac Brown Band) 6 p.m., Led Zeppelin 7 p.m., and Metallica 8 p.m. (this show not recommended for young children)

    • Saturdays – “Laser Vinyl” 6 p.m., “Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon” 7 p.m., and “Pink Floyd: The Wall” 8 p.m. (also not for young children)

    Free programs | At noon daily:

    • Mondays – “What’s Up in the Sky This Week?”

    • Tuesdays – “History of Technology”

    • Wednesdays – “Sea Turtle Talk,” with members of the Sunset Beach Turtle Watch Program

    • Thursdays – “To the Moon”

    • Fridays – “Science in Small Bytes” lecture series: “Hurricane Preparedness” on June 6; “Star Gazing 101” June 13 and 27 and July 11 and 25; “Hurricane Construction” June 20; “Science of Flight” July 4; “Astrobiology” July 18, “The Size of Space” Aug. 1, “North Carolina’s Hurricane History” Aug. 8, with Jay Barnes, author and historian; and “Ancient Aliens,” Aug. 15, with Fred R. David, an author, historian and professor, exploring, “Has the Earth been visited by ancient aliens?

    Special events |

    • “Sci-Fi and Serling: A Writer’s Gimmick,” with Gordon Webb, guest speaker, 6 p.m. July 1

    • Opening of new “Nano Exhibit,” with hands-on exhibits about nanoscience and engineering, July 16

    How much |

    • Per show/program: $8 ages 13-61, $7 ages 62 and older, $6 ages 3-12, and free ages 2 and younger

    • Seven-day “vacation pass” $69 for two adults and as many as to four children

    • Through Blue Star Museums program, free tickets May 26-Sept. 1 for active duty military personnel with ID, also good for five family members.

    • Free admission to science hall exhibits and noon programs

    Information | 910-575-0033 or

    Also | Visit the Museum of Coastal Carolina, sister entity, at 21 E. Second St., Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturdays, and with its own slew of daily programs and a weekly lecture series. Details at 910-579-1016. Admission is the same as for planetarium shows, including Blue Star Museums incentive.

    Museum concerts | At 6:30-8 p.m. Fridays in parking lot, free “Concerts on the Coast”: The Entertainers on May 23, Continental Divide May 30, Blackwater Rhythm & Blues June 6, Sea Cruz June 13, The Attractions Band June 30, Fantastic Shakers June 27, Steve Owens & Summertime July 4, Too Much Sylvia July 11, The Embers with Craig Woolard July 18, Hip Pocket Band July 25, Mark Roberts Band Aug. 1, The Rick Strickland Band Aug 8, Jim Quick & Coastline Aug. 15, The Imitations Aug 22, Band of Oz Aug. 29, and Holiday Band Sept. 5. More details:

At Ingram Planetarium in Sunset Beach, N.C., you have to look up. Never mind that the universe might seem bigger, and we humans and this Earth smaller, than we ever imagined.

With some tips about the contents discovered so far in the heavens, take home some new highlights for which to look in the nighttime sky, whether at home, the beach or in a field, and unlock many other worlds before your eyes.

The planetarium departs from its Friday-Saturday schedule and goes into summer mode this weekend, with shows on its Sky Theater and other programs Mondays-Saturdays through Sept. 1.

Recline in the 85-seat dome and choose from a menu of shows that change hourly, including three new productions: “Dinosaur Passage to Pangaea” at 1 p.m., “Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure” at 2 p.m., and with narration by actor Tim Allen, “Back to the Moon for Good.” Then, after every screening, Ed Ovsenik, planetarium manager, gives a show on what to look for in the sky for the month.

At a showing last month of “Undiscovered Worlds” to start a Saturday, people spread across about half the 85-seat auditorium, and all left knowing about the Kepler Space Telescope. This NASA spacecraft in orbit this decade has been on the prowl for planets, detecting more than 3,800 objects, about one-quarter of which have been confirmed as “exoplanets,” orbiting their respective stars or suns. Six of those could have, or might’ve had, liquid water or characteristics for life-habitable possibilities.

Fact, not fiction

A subject “once considered science fiction” is now scientific fact, the narration in “Undiscovered Worlds” states about all this long distance unearthing of celestial objects hundreds of light years from Earth.

Closer to home, the movie lays out how the inner planets, going outward from the sun – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars – are rocky, whereas the outer planets (amid our sympathies to the defrocked Pluto ...) – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – are giants made up of gas. Even the “Great Red Spot,” as the roving storm on Jupiter is known and measured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, would fit more than one Earth-size planet within its bounds.

Seeing a movie in the dome marks only half the journey for each visitor to Ingram, for afterward, Ovesnik casts a current outer space picture on the ceiling for nighttime viewing each month. This week in mid-May, he’s telling audiences about some gems to behold.

Look southeast in late evening, he said, for “a capital J,” the constellation Scorpius, or Scorpion. Then peer next to that for “a teapot,” part of the constellation Sagittarius.

Saturn, Ovesnik said, rises in the southeast about 25 degrees above the horizon, looking “brilliant and at opposition,” in a straight line with the sun and Earth, so the disc is 100 percent lit for us at night. Also, with Saturn being about 800 million miles to the sun, the planet’s ellipsis had brought it to about 700 million miles from Earth, hence its “much bigger” appearance in this interval.

Meteor shower coming

Ovesnik’s excitement for this weekend is overflowing for an “unexpected” meteor shower this weekend, as Earth passes through an inbound comet’s tail.

“You have to look toward Polaris,” he said, “the North Star. The best thing is to look for right part of the bowl of the Big Dipper to see where these meteors originate from.”

A biology major who earned his juris doctorate and worked as a corporate environmental lawyer, Ovsenik has become consumed by the world of astronomy.

The native New Yorker said “it’s OK to wonder” about the growing body of work that astrophysics covers, and “to have people walk away” from a planetarium show, thinking, “I never thought about that.”

Enjoying his educating role at Ingram, which first opened 12 years ago, and began showing laser music shows in 2009, Ovesnik said, “It’s not a job; it’s fun.”

Don’t leave the building without stopping at the various displays and interactive experiments in the science hall, across from the theater. Play with an orrery, a model of our solar system, or pause for a few minutes to watch a video of an astronaut’s tour aboard the International Space Station, as she shows how to wash her hair, or work out on a treadmill – a critical step because a person’s body mass and bone density change in a weightless world, where one does not sit for six months.

Also, as touched on in the movie “Undiscovered Worlds,” a person’s age will differ on a fellow terrestrial planet. Play with the numbers to feel older or younger, because traveling around round our sun at 67,000 miles per hour, Earth spends 3651/4 days to make that loop, but Mercury’s orbit takes only 88 “Earth days.” For Venus and Mars, on the other hand, the respective revolutions last 225 and 687 Earth days.

So, a 20-year-old on Earth would be 83, in Mercury years. (For that conversion rate, mutiply 20 by 365, which equals 7,300 Earth days, and divide that total by 88, resulting in 83.)

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.

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