ARLINGTON - The
Planetarium at The University of Texas at Arlington is using NASA funding to explore
the mysteries of Earth’s closest and most important star in “Magnificent Sun,”
an original feature film set to premier Thursday.
Photo by Tim Lautensack
45-minute planetarium show is the third in a series developed by Manfred Cuntz, a UT Arlington associate professor of physics, and the planetarium staff over
the past three years. Funding for “Magnificent Sun” came from a $30,000 public
outreach supplemental grant from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Physics program.
Cuntz’s research, conducted with solar physicist David Hathaway of NASA’s
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., focuses on the structure of
the solar surface, particularly convective patterns.
“As a researcher, I feel it’s not just
appropriate to develop and use theoretical work to better understand our sun,
but also to offer something to the general public to share information and
excitement about solar physics,” Cuntz said. “The planetarium is a nice venue
for doing that because it attracts the general public and potential students to
features solar surface research and lessons on the interaction between the Sun
and the Earth. It also provides tidbits on the history of solar physics – all
coordinated with stunning animated illustrations.
authored the script with Peter Williams, a former doctoral student of Cuntz’s
who now works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, and Marc
Rouleau, the previous director of the UT Arlington planetarium.
Gurdemir, the planetarium’s current director, said developing original
planetarium shows allows UT Arlington to highlight the valuable research under
way at the University.
“The sun is
the star we know best, but it still has many mysteries,” Gurdemir said. “If we
understand the sun, we can better understand other stars.”
staff, led by program coordinator Amy Barraclough, spent about a year working
countless hours on the new show. Other contributors to the “Magnificent Sun”
included animation specialist Ron Proctor, Dome3D LLC and Northern Kentucky University, which provided animations of Chaco
Canyon, New Mexico.
developed the popular SpacePark360 planetarium show that features numerous
roller coaster simulations.
With a 60-foot
diameter dome and state of the art Digistar 4 DLP Projection system, the planetarium
at UT Arlington is one of the largest and most sophisticated in the state of
show developed at UT Arlington through NASA funding, “Cosmic CSI: Looking for
Life in the Universe,” was finished in 2007 and the second, which focused on
NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), opened in 2009. All three
shows will be available for distribution to other planetariums across the U.S.
premier begins at 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public, but space is
limited. This is the only chance to see “Magnificent Sun” this year. It will
appear on the planetarium’s regular schedule in Spring 2011.
The UTA Planetarium
also is showing three new entertainment shows in December, Pink Floyd’s “Dark
Side of the Moon,” “The Wall” and “Wish You Were Here,” and two holiday shows,
Season of Light and Holiday Music Magic. For more information on those shows,
University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate
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