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Planetarium and Observatory

Allen F. Blocher Planetarium


Group Programs

All of our programs present a look at the current evening sky.  There are several programs for each age level, all of which are presented by astronomy students who work in the planetarium and may be from a variety of majors. There are two basic categories into which our programs fall: 1.) interactive, and 2.) automated multimedia.
  1. Interactive programs [IP] are live presentations in which the planetarium instructor and the students would typically explore a certain subject using the star projector and other slide and video projectors. The following concepts are especially suited for this type of program: day/night, phases of the moon, Earth motions, planetary motions, constellation recognition, and studying the current sky.
  2. Automated Multimedia [AM] programs offer a stimulating array of visuals augmented by a professionally recorded sound track. In addition, there is usually time after the program which can be tailored to suit your needs. If one of these programs fits what you teach, they are an excellent addition to your curriculum.

We do have a $25.00 charge for our programs.  This is a program charge (not a per person charge) This should be taken care of at the time of your visit to the planetarium. 


Choosing A Program

Deciding what your students will experience at the planetarium should be a combined effort between the classroom teachers and the planetarium staff with the ultimate goal of meeting the needs of the students. If the programs listed below do not suit your curriculum, we can discuss ways to tailor a program to fit your needs. There are undeniable advantages to both polished programs and tailored programs. A polished ("standard") program is one that is developed and refined over time, and takes full advantage of the planetarian's creativity and the planetarium's capabilities. While an interactive polished program can be adapted to fit the needs of an individual class, there are a limited number of options, and there is a limit as to how much a program can be altered. A tailored program may possibly be created to match the unit you teach, but it may lack some of the smoothness and cohesion of a polished program.

Program Descriptions

NOTES: The information in [BLUE BRACKETS] indicates the WI State Science Standards addressed by the show. Recent additions are indicated in PURPLE.

Pre-School, Elementary, and Middle School Grades

Magic Sky - (Pre-school and K) - [AM] Basic introduction to the movement of objects in the sky from day to night. [E.4.4, E.4.6]

Sky and Planets - (grades K - 3) - [IP] Basic introduction to the night sky, constellations, and the solar system. [B.4.3, E.4.4]

Project Moon - (grades 2 - 5) - [IP] Trip to the Moon based on the Apollo missions and a look at the space shuttle. [A.4.5, B.4.3]

Interplanetary Explorer - (grades 2 - 5) - [IP] Futuristic spaceship voyage through the planets of our solar system. [E.4.4, B.4.3]
Patterns in the Sky - (grades 3 - 6) - [IP] Constellations, Sun motion (daily and annual), Cause for seasons, the shuttle. [E.4.4, E.4.6, E.8.8]   

Stars in the Galaxy - (grades 4 - 6) - [IP] Star characteristics, the life cycle of stars, the light year. [E.4.4, A.8.4, E.8.7, E.8.8]

Middle and Secondary Grades

From Dust to Dust - (grades 7 - 10) - [IP] Description of the Sun, its life cycle, and size, temperature and life cycle comparisons with other stars. [E.8.7]

Starscapes - (grades 9 - 12) - [IP] Components of the Milky Way, its multiple stars, its star clusters, newly formed stars, and nebulae, finishing with an overview of stellar life cycles. [E.8.7]

Starship EARTH - (grades 7 - 12) - [IP] Sky motions (daily, annual, and latitude), Reason for the seasons, and Sky phenomena such as meteor showers, aurora, comets, etc. (Coordinate systems can be included upon request.) [C.8.4, E.8.7, E.8.8, A.12.6, B.12.5]


Multimedia Programs (Listed Alphabetically)

Aurora! - (grades 5 - adult) - [AM] This program takes a look at our understanding of the Aurora Borealis or northern lights. We look at some of the early myths associated with the northern lights and follow our understanding of their origin from ideas of the ancient Greeks to our modern-day knowledge of their appearance as a link between electricity and magnetism and between the Sun and the Earth. [A.8.5, B.8.1, B.8.2, D.8.8, D.8.9, D.8.10, B.12.1, B.12.3]

Bad Astronomy: Myths and Misconceptions - (grades 5 - adult) - [AM] This program challenges the audience to think critically about science. Were the Apollo visits to the moon a hoax? Have aliens landed on Earth? Can you tell your future from the stars? Prepare to debunk and tackle pseudoscience head-on in "Bad Astronomy", based on the popular book and website by the same name. Bad Astronomy offers a unique and fun approach to learning about the cosmos. Join the "Bad Astronomer" Phil Plait as he takes a critical look at popular myths and misconceptions to show visitors how science can be used to evaluate questionable claims. [A.8.5, B.8.1, B.8.3, C.8.5, G.8.3, H.8.1, A.12.6, B.12.3; D.12.9, D.12.11, D.12.12; H.12.6]

Chasing the Ghost Particle: From the South Pole to the Edge of the Universe - (grades 7 - adult) - [AM] Deep in the ice at the heart of Antarctica, the biggest and strangest detector in the world waits for mysterious messengers from the cosmos. Scientists are using tiny and elusive particles called neutrinos to explore the insides of stars and planets. These ghostly neutrinos give us an exclusive look into exploding stars and black holes. [B.8.5, B.12.4, D.8.2, D.12.2, G.8.2]

Clouds of Fire: The Creation of Stars - (grades 9 - adult) - [AM] This program explores the very nature of a star from what makes them shine, to what makes them in the first place. We answer such questions as what are stars made of, how long do they live, and how they are born and die. [B.8.1, D.8.2, E.8.7, B.12.4, D.12.2, D.12.11, E.12.3, E.12.5]
Cosmic Colors - (grades 6 - adult) - [AM] Cosmic Colors will take you on a wondrous journey across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  Discover the many reasons for color - like why the sky is blue and why Mars is red.  Take a tour within a plant leaf and journey inside the human eye.  Investigate x-rays by voyaging to a monstrous black hole and then back to your doctor's office.  You will even see the actual color of a dinosaur - based on recent evidence.  Get ready for an amazing adventure under a rainbow of cosmic light.   [C.8.5, D.8.8, D.8.9, D.12.9] 
Dawn of Astronomy - (grades 6 - adult) - [AM] Journey back in time to catch a glimpse of the dawn of astronomy. By looking at the prehistoric megaliths of Stonehenge, the mighty pyramids of Egypt, and the towering ziggurats of Babylonia we unearth our ancestor's fascination and understanding of the heavens and their shrines which are linked to celestial events. Learn how the ancients, through their astronomical observations, measured time and determined direction, as well as how they were able to build such structures as the pyramids and Stonehenge. [A.8.4, E.8.8, G.8.3, A.12.6, B.12.3, C.12.5] [Also addresses WI Social Studies standards A.8.9, B.12.10]

Death of the Dinosaurs - (grades 4 - 12) - [AM] The first half of the program studies the dinosaurs, then the program concludes by looking at possible reasons why they died out, especially those of astronomical origins. [A.8.4, E.8.5, F.8.2, E.12.2, E.12.3, F.12.5]

Endless Horizon (grades 7 - adult) - [AM] Join Patrick Stewart and explore the unique relationships between scientific discoveries, advances in science theory, technology breakthroughs, and the concept of the universe.  Highlighted are Newton, telescopes, and space probes.
This program takes you from the world exploration of the 1500's to today where along the way you'll discover how devices were being created that would profoundly influence the course of history.  For example, by 1903 the Wright brothers launched their first flying machine; in that same year, Tsilkovski conceived of a method to launch an 
artifical satellite into orbit.  These technological advances led to space rocketry; and solar system exploration.  This  emergence of technology allowed us to explore our celestial neighbors and helped unlock the secrets of the solar 
system.  Finally by using modern advances in telescopes, we have been able to look out to the furthest expanses of the universe.  Stand upon the shoulders of giants and see that our horizon is, indeed, endless.  [A.8.5, B.8.1, B.8.2, E.8.8, F.8.2, G.8.3, G.8.7, B.12.1, B.12.3, F.12.5] [Also addresses WI Social Studies standards A.8.10, B.8.3, B.8.7, B.8.8]  
Explorers of Mauna Kea - (grades 7 - adult) - [AM] Some of the worlds largest telescopes are located at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. This program looks at the telescopes as well as the atmospheric and astronomical reasons why this is such an ideal observing site. [B.8.1, B.8.2, E.8.2, E.8.7, G.8.2, B.12.3, D.12.12, E.12.2] [Also addresses WI Social Studies standards A.8.6]
Galaxies - (grades 5 - adult) - [AM] On a clear dark night the stars that we see appear to be uncountable.  These thousands of stars are only a small part of a grouping known as the Milky Way galaxy.  Stars, be they young or old, are not the only objects that can be found in our galaxy.  Many stars are part of star clusters, they along with gas and dust can all be found within the Milky Way galaxy.  Our galaxy the Milky Way is just one of more than one hundred billion galaxies in the universe.  In Galaxies, we journey through the Milke Way and the galaxies beyond to explore the universe of galaxies in which we live.    [C.8.5, D.8.8, ] 
Gods of the Solar System - (grades 5 - adult) - [AM] Each one of the significant planetary bodies has been named after a god or goddess from mythology. This program not only mentions the history of the name but looks at what we know about each of these bodies today. No longer do these objects hold mythical significance but today we understand them for what they are, planetary bodies in many ways like Earth. For all of the planets we have not only observed them through our telescopes but we have visited them with robotic spacecraft and have viewed these planets close up. This program is really an opportunity to see what we have learned about each of the planetary bodies in the solar system. We will also look at why some of these objects are now called dwarf planets and where these dwarf planets are located. This program gives you a unique tour of the solar system. [A.8.5, B.8.1, E.8.7, A.12.6, E.12.3]

Hubble Vision - (grades 6 - adult) - [AM] This program looks at the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope during it more than 15 years in orbit. Starting in our own solar system the program moves on to look at the stars and how they are born and die. Finally it looks at the wide variety of galaxies. The program finishes by looking at some of the most distant objects yet observed. [E.8.7, B.12.3, D.12.11, D.12.12, E.12.5]

In Search of New Worlds - (grades 7 - adult) - [AM] In the last few years hundreds of planets orbiting other stars have been discovered. Using computer animations and interviews with planet hunter Geoff Marcy, this program looks at how these discoveries of planets beyond our solar system have been made. [B.8.1, C.8.1, E.8.4, E.8.7, D.12.7, D.12.12]

Into the Universe - (grades 6 - adult) - [AM] The world entered the space age when on 4 October 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first artificial Earth satellite Sputnik 1. This exciting show takes a historic look at space exploration and NASA including both human and robotic missions. Follow the history of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions looking at both the successes and failures that have gone along with the space program. Explore Jupiter, Saturn and Mars with the help of robotic spacecraft. We conclude by looking at future missions and the possibility of permanent bases on the moon and Mars. [B.8.1, B.8.5, B.12.3, G.12.3] [Also addresses WI Social Studies standards A.8.10, B.8.7]

Journey to the Stars - (grades 4 - adult) - [AM] This program takes a look at our understanding of the Universe. We look at stars, how they are born and how they die. We then take a look at the size of the universe by defining the concept of the light year and then using that to travel through the solar system to the very edge of the Universe. Finally we conclude by looking at our future in space, from the beginning of rocket flight to the stunning discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope. [B.8.1, E.8.7, A.12.5, B.12.1, D.12.11, E.12.5]

Light Years from Andromeda - (grades 6 - adult) - [AM] This program explores the speed of light and distances (specifically the light year) in the Universe. By following a beam of light from the Andromeda galaxy we see the changes that have occurred on Earth since this light left the galaxy about 2.25 million years ago.
[A.8.5, B.8.1, E.8.5, F.8.7, F.8.9, A.12.5, B.12.3, D.12.11, H.12.3 ]
[This program also addresses WI Social Studies standards A.8.10, B.8.7, B.8.8, B.12.9, B.12.10]

MarsQuest - (grades 6 - adult) - [AM] Patrick Stewart narrates this program that takes a look at how our understanding of Mars has changed through the years. The three sections look first at the Mars of science fiction, then the Mars of science fact, and finally the possible Mars of the future. [A.8.5, B.8.1, E.8.7, A.12.6, B.12.4, D.12.11, E.12.3, H.12.5]

More Than Meets the Eye - (grades 5 - adult) - [AM] In this program we take a look at the differences between breathtaking astronomical pictures in magazines, and what we would see if viewing some of the same objects through binoculars or small telescopes. See how planets, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies look through backyard telescopes. [D.8.9, E.8.7, A.12.6, G.12.1]

The Power - (grades 5 - 10) - [AM] This program looks in reasonable detail at galaxies, how big they are, where they are located, what they are made of, why are they different shapes and the changes that galaxies show when they age. [A.4.4, B.4.1, A.8.4, C.8.6, E.8.7]

Sky Quest - (grades 5 - adult) - [AM] Come along with a young woman on her personal quest to find a special place in the night sky. Starting with her childhood adventures on Mars (thanks to a cardboard rocket) and on to the discovery of her birthday star, these experiences eventually led her to becoming an astronomer. During the remainder of the program she shares telescopic views of celestial objects and describes how to actually find many of the stars and constellations in the night sky. Sky Quest is narrated by Roxann Dawson (the actress who portrays B'Elanna Torres on TV's Star Trek: Voyager) and it is an entertaining and educational exploration of the night sky. [B.8.6, C.8.4, E.8.7, E.8.8, G.8.1, B.12.3, G.12.1]

The Stargazer - (grades 6 - adult) - [AM] Narrated by Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura from Star Trek) and Dr. James Kaler (noted stellar astronomer) we take a more personal look at astronomy. Using principles of gravity, the properties of light, and the spectrum; this program explores the very nature of the stars and stellar life cycles. [A.8.5, B.8.1, D.8.8, D.8.9, G.8.1, A.12.5, B.12.1, D.12.11, G.12.1]

Stellar Extremes - (grades 6 - adult) - [AM] From the smallest to the biggest, the hottest to the coolest, from the fastest to the most bizarre...all stars have their place in this incredible universe. Explore the dynamics of stellar interiors, encounter some of the most unusual stars, and find out what it takes to solve stellar mysteries from light years away. Stellar Extremes not only views some of the unique objects in the universe but also takes a look at how astronomers find out what these objects are really like. [B.8.1, C.8.2, D.8.8, A.12.5, D.12.2, E.12.5]

The Voyager Encounters - (grades 7 - adult) - [AM] Patrick Stewart narrates as we look at the Voyager spacecraft, the instruments that it carried, and its discoveries at each of the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. [E.8.7, G.8.2, A.12.7, B.12.4, E.12.3]

Winter Holiday Programs

Season of Light - (grades 4 - adult) (available November and December) - [AM] This delightful multicultural program will lead you through the discovery of many basic astronomy concepts as you explore the holiday traditions of several cultures and religions. Also hear about the origins of many of our modern holiday customs. We conclude with a look at some of the ideas of what the Christmas star was.
[A.8.5, B.8.1, B.8.2, B.8.6, B.12.1, B.12.3] [Addresses WI Social Studies standards A.8.9, B.12.11 B.12.10]

Winter Wonders - (grades 3 - 10) (available November and December) - [AM] Our holiday program, especially for the young, takes a (multicultural) look at the many holiday customs and why the winter solstice was important. The program also describes different religious traditions and takes a look at Christmas story and the star. [B.4.2, E.4.4, B.8.1, B.8.6, E.8.8, ] [Also addresses WI Social Studies standards B.4.4, E.8.2]

If these offerings do not serve the needs of you and your students, you are invited to work with the planetarium director to design a unique program which will reasonably fit your curriculum.