5 questions with the UofL Planetarium Director

Published: Oct. 7, 2016 at 2:19 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2016 at 9:58 AM EDT
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UofL Rauch Planetarium Director Tom Tretter
UofL Rauch Planetarium Director Tom Tretter

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Don't you love fall? The changing of the leaves and the sweater weather -- I think it will come -- are two seasonal staples that come to mind. And did you know it's also one of the best times for stargazing?

Saturday, you can do just that at a free event at Norton Commons from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

University of Louisville Rauch Planetarium & the Louisville Astronomical Society are teaming up for the 2nd annual Night Sky Viewing Party and Tour of the Universe at Norton Commons Lakefront Amphitheater. I talked with UofL Rauch Planetarium Director Tom Tretter.

Here are my five questions with Tretter:

1) What will people be able to see in the sky this Saturday?
We will be having nearly a first-quarter moon (half a circle), so viewed through telescopes the terminator line between light and dark offers opportunity for many details of craters, ridges and other features to be seen. Mars and Saturn will be above the horizon for part of the night as well – two favorites for many to see with their own eyes.
2) Who came up with this event?
Norton Commons approached us last year. We had about 300 attend and it was incredibly well-received, a really great group from retirees to kiddos. Sometimes folks forget about the UofL Planetarium as a fun, interactive place open to the entire community, so we try to bring some of the experiences and programming that we offer to new settings.

The Night Sky Viewing party at Norton Commons is a truly remarkable experience. The sky was amazingly clear last year. First I provide a fun "mach speed" crash course on the state of our universe, and then everyone is able to try out the many incredibly high-powered telescopes courtesy of the Louisville Astronomical Society. Attendees are going to get one-on-one guidance and tips on stargazing.

3. What should people bring?
Visitors should pack their own blankets and lawn chairs. Event-goers will be able to purchase food from Ramiro's Food Truck.

4. What are some of the activities offered by the UofL Planetarium?
We're open to the public and dedicated to providing a unique learning environment primarily for astronomy and science education using our state-of-the-art multi-media projection systems. Public shows are on weekends throughout the year and we offer hands-on, engaging kids programming including Girl Scout workshops and summer camps.

We also offer the Owsley Brown II Mobile Planetarium. With new science standards for schools, and the shift away from costly and labor-intensive field trips, we have found that public, private and parochial schools are looking for education experiences that they can bring into their gyms. Neighborhood businesses and groups like Norton Commons and Lilly's Bistro are donating the small fee it takes for us to come out so that we can bring the mobile planetarium into their local schools.

5. On Aug. 21, 2017 we will have the first total solar eclipse since 1979. Why is Kentucky so important?
There are going to be scientists and eclipse chasers from all over the world descending on Kentucky. Western Kentucky has the absolute best viewing -- "Maximum Totality" as we astronomy geeks call it -- but Louisville won't be far behind. On Oct. 13, UofL is hosting an interesting gentleman who has earned the nickname "Mr. Eclipse" because of his work predicting and observing solar eclipses. His name is Fred Espenak and he is a retired NASA astrophysicist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where he worked with infrared spectrometers to probe the atmospheres of the planets. It's a great lecture open to the public.

For more information about the Planetarium, click here.

Previous installments

+ Sept. 8 Robert Curran of Louisville Ballet
July 28: Founder of Frogglez
July 21: Owner of LIFEbar
July 7: Owners of new SET at Theatre Square restaurant

June 23: PR firm owner Bob Gunnell
May 26: Abbey Road on the River promoter Gary Jacob
+ May 20: S. Brandon Coan
+ May 13: Campbell Brown
April 28: Donna Barton Brothers
+ April 22: Wayne Hettinger
+ April 15: Milliner Kenzie Kapp
April 8: The owner of MexA Steak Tacos

March 31: The owners of Louisville's Drybar
March 25: Local entrepreneur Junior Bridgeman
March 18: Author Emily Bingham
March 11: PurseKeyper co-rounder Dana Robinson
March 4: Chef, restaurateur John Varanese
Feb. 26: Wicked Sheets Founder Alli Truttmann
Feb. 19: Lilly's Chef Kathy Cary
Feb. 12: Speed Museum Director Ghislain d'Humieres
Feb. 5: Miss Kentucky USA Kyle Hornback

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