Planetarium presentation to examine supernovae

Supernovae are some of the most important events in the known universe. They help form many of the things that humans know, both on Earth’s level and on a more astronomical one.

“When people think about from where they came, they often just think about their parents, grandparents, etc.,” said Travis Rector, a professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UAA, who will help give a presentation about the phenomena. “But what about the particles inside your body? How did they get here? We’ll talk about the amazing journey that these particles took, from their origin in the Big Bang, through several generations of stars, to the formation of our solar system.”
The presentation, called “Exploding Universe,” will take place at UAA’s Planetarium at both 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Jan. 30. However, it’s not just about supernovae. The show will follow a single proton as it makes the journey to make an impact in the universe. This can happen both in local events, such as Earth’s old supervolcanoes, and through the aforementioned supernovae.

Rector won’t be giving the presentation alone.

“We chose this show because it allows us to highlight the astronomy expertise of myself and planetarium director Dr. Erin Hicks,” said Rector. “Half of each show will be one of us talking in more detail about subjects discussed in the pre-recorded first half of the show.”

Erin Hicks, an assistant professor of Astronomy, is prepared to discuss why these explosions, including supernovae, are so important.

“These (explosions) are the processes by which we and the universe have acquired many of the elements that are important to us,” Hicks said. “So many of the materials here on Earth, and many of the materials in our bodies are produced by a supernova explosion.”

One of the show’s key themes revolves around the idea that out of these devastating events comes rebirth, and a supernova happens to be a prime example of that.

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“It is no exaggeration to say that we are made of ‘star stuff,’” Rector said.

In the astronomy field, this is a fascinating subject, and it will be explored in great detail during the presentation.