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Students and community ‘Explore’ outer space

Pitt State’s Kelce Planetarium, housed in Yates Hall, was gateway to outer space through film “Explore” for its bi-weekly showing. 

This week’s show held Tuesday, Feb. 12, featured various items of outer space from constellations to the Voyager trips. Easton Morrill, Kelce Planetarium head presenter, is also a double major in mathematics and physics, emphasis in astrophysics, which led him to become part of the planetarium. 

“It’s such an experience,” Morrill said. “There’s so many things that you can view and see and hear and learn in this building that you can’t learn other than taking an astronomy course. So even if you’re not super interested in space… there’s still so much perspective you can come here and learn. And just have a good time, because at the end of the day my goal is to make sure: A, walk away learning something, and B, enjoy your time here. So I really hope people can come in here and have that experience.” 

Morrill leads all public shows and said that he “loves” sharing the knowledge he has learned at Pitt State.  

“… I love it a lot,” he said. “It’s definitely a learning experience … but now I feel like I’m doing a really good job. … And we’re starting to grow our numbers. I want to push to have a telescope … and just trying to get as many people here to learn about astronomy.” 

Students and community members filed into the planetarium for the show, and for many it was their first time, such as for Achsah Clark, sophomore in business management. 

“It was really cool,” Clark said. “I’m in an astronomy class and basically everything that he talked about is what we learned in the past two weeks, so that was pretty cool.” 

Clark originally attended the showing for extra credit, but she said she would attend again “even without the extra credit.” Both the planetarium and the showing interested Clark, as well as others in attendance. 

“It’s a really cool opportunity and I’m surprised the university has one, but I’m glad that they do,” she said. “It gives you an opportunity to really learn in depth about what they tell you in class because in class our teacher runs around like a crazy person trying to show us what happens in space, but this really shows us what happens and I think it’s really cool.” 

Morrill said that this showing included different content than previous showings, which gave him more freedom within his presentation. A demonstration of the sky and its various galaxies, constellations, and more with commentary from Morrill began the showing. Following was the animated film titled “Explore.” 

“So this was kind of an atypical show for me because usually we show a video that talks about space things and I try to kind of highlight those things before the video,” Morrill said. “… But this presentation was different because it didn’t talk about specific space things, so I kind of got free reign to talk about what I wanted to. I always like to touch on the ecliptic because that’s a very important concept in astronomy, especially in our solar system. And then I also touched on zodiac constellations and the messier catalog because those are things that if you have a telescope you could go and look up ‘where could I find this messier catalog item’ and then look up into the sky and see it. So I really tried to focus on things that people could actually see if they wanted to go out and do that kind of thing.” 

Zettie Allen, junior in environmental science, has previous experience with science-related things like planetariums, which is why the “Explore” showing attracted her. 

“It’s honestly really cool to go in there and… know our university does that,” Allen said. “I went to space camp for like eight or nine years as a kid, like growing up, so it’s really cool that I now go to a university where they do this, and it’s like super detailed. Usually when I went to space camp it’d be like the same video over and over and over again, so it’s really refreshing to have something that’s like new and up-to-date … and (Morrill) was saying that this is a lot of recent studies. So it’s really nice that our college keeps up with all this. …” 

Allen attended with her roommate and encourages everyone to experience a planetarium showing.  

“I’m really glad that we have it; I think it’s super nice and a lot of fun to go to,” Allen said. “… I’ve just always been really into astronomy and space so I just decided to come, see if it was anything different than what I’ve learned, and it definitely was. So I had a lot of fun. … Definitely more people need to show up, there was not that many.” 

The planetarium features a different show every two weeks. Tickets are $3 for adults and $2 for students, seniors, and children, paid at the door. Morrill said this money goes toward providing for the planetarium. 

“So we use that money to buy more shows,” Morrill said. “We like to use … a couple different websites and buy these shows. … We actually have to rent those shows every time, and so that’s where the money goes, and the more people the more opportunity to buy better shows and hopefully upgrade equipment or buy new equipment. We’ve been doing a really good job at saving a lot of money … and then I’m hoping that we can use some of the money that we’ve saved to buy a telescope to use for more public shows.” 

A poster can be found outside the Kelce Planetarium with dates and times of upcoming showings. 

“… Every show will be a different show, which is also a challenge for myself—that’s another thing I like to do, kind of make sure I’m always pushing, I’m never stagnant—and so as I do research before every planetarium showing I know I’m also learning things and then I can share that with everyone else,” Morrill said. 

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