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Planetarium Shows

Planetarium Director: Kenneth L. Murphy, Ph.D.

Phone: 507-537-6173
Secretary: 507-537-6178
Fax: 507-537-6151
Mailing Address:
SMSU Planetarium, SM 178
1501 State St.
Marshall, MN  56258

TO BOOK A SHOW, email the planetarium director with the following information:  Name of school or organization, person arranging visit, age of visitors, head count, mailing address, phone number, date and time you would like to visit (you may want to pick more than one date and time in order of preference).  Below you will see a list of Planetarium shows with descriptions.  Your visit will consist of two parts: a multimedia program (from list below) and a live segment where we go over the current night sky.  All shows run about an hour.  If you have any special requests, let me know in advance and I will try to accommodate you.  The cost of a weekday  show is $50 with a maximum number of 56 visitors per show.   Weekend shows run $100.  There is no minimum group size, however the cost is the same.  Weekend and evenings may entail an additional cost.  The best time to request a show is on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays from 8:30 a.m. -  2:30 p.m.  If the time you request is not possible, I will suggest the closest possible date and time.  If these times don't work, let me know, I will try to work something out.  If you would like to schedule a laser show, indicate so in your email.  To book a tour of the SMSU Museum of Natural History and/or the SMSU Greenhouse, inquire in your email message.   During the warmer months, we also have nature trails in our wildlife area on campus(see map).

Click here to see a list of our new LASER shows.

Little Star
The Little Star That Could (K-4th) 35 min
"The Little Star That Could" has been reproduced for digital fulldome projection with new computer graphic animation. This popular and well-loved story which has been shown at the SMSU planetarium for 20 years has been updated with accurate astronomical information. Have no fear; the story basically remains the same with all of your favorite stars!  For those of you who are not familiar with the show, "The Little Star That Could" is a story about Little Star, an average yellow star in search for planets of his own to protect and warm. Along the way, he meets other stars, learns what makes each star special, and discovers that stars combine to form star clusters and galaxies. Eventually, Little Star finds his planets. Each planet is introduced to your audiences with basic information about our Solar System.  FULLDOME PRODUCTION   K-2 Teacher Activity Guide    3-6 Teacher Activity Guide
Our Place In Space (1st - 3rd) 33 min
This is a wonderful children's program that features several colorful and lively animal characters (Scarlett the macaw, Paula the polar bear, Indy the elephant, Charlie the crocodile, Sheba the cobra and Leo the lion). The story begins with a crossword puzzle book falling from the sky and landing on Scarlett's head. When she opens the book the first puzzle she comes to is called Our Place in Space. For some help in solving the puzzle clues, Scarlett travels all over the world to visit her friends. Each friend is able to teach her something new and exciting about the Earth and Space! The discussions center around the following themes: The Sun as a Star, What Makes the Sun Move, The Planet Earth, A Weighty Subject - Gravity, The Shadow of Night, Constellations are Star Pictures, Getting into Space. Scarlett's journey finally ends with an imaginary space trip as Captain Leo takes her to visit the planets and moons of our solar system and the stars beyond.
Flight Adventures (3rd-5th) 22 min
Dreams of flying, model aircraft, and a young girl and her grandfather come together in this planetarium show about the science of  aeronautics.  Learn about famous inventors and aviators of the past and the pioneers who first revealed the 4 forces of flight.  See images of  aircraft past, present and future and imagine where flight might take  us.  Discover the science of flight through the eyes of a young girl and her  grandfather as they explore how birds, kites, planes, and models fly.  Learn about the history and future of flight and how NASA is  discovering new and safer ways to travel with the help of future  engineers and aviators—like you!

Two Small Pieces of Glass (3rd-Adult)  25 min
Join two students as they learn how the telescope has helped us understand our place in space and how telescopes continue to expand our understanding of the Universe. The students see how telescopes work and how the largest observatories in the world use these instruments to explore the mysteries of the universe. While looking through the telescope, the students, along with the planetarium audience, explore the Galilean Moons, Saturn’s rings, and spiral structure of the galaxies.

Galileo--The Power of the Telescope (5th-Adult) 44 min
Two eyes and two pieces of glass revolutionized human understanding 400 years ago. The eyes belonged to Galileo Galilei, and the curved pieces of glass were the lenses of his telescope. In Galileo: The Power of the Telescope – you'll learn Galileo's personal and powerful story, and explore how his discoveries displaced long-held views about the universe.  Travel back in time to Pisa, Italy, to experience Galileo’s early experiments with gravity and the laws of motion, his advocacy of the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun (still an absurd notion to many in the 1600’s), and his work with early telescopes. Learn how his keen observations culminated in The Starry Messenger, an early masterpiece in which Galileo described all his dazzling discoveries in a straightforward, easy to understand way. Narrated by Dava Sobel, author of the award-winning biography Galileo's Daughter.  FULLDOME PRODUCTION
Seasonal Stargazing (4th-Adult) 30 min
Find out more about "what's up tonight" in just a few minutes than some people do in a lifetime! Hop through constellations, learn cool star names, and groove to planetarium space music in this fulldome audiovisual experience.  The content of this show changes throughout the year to reflect the night sky at the appropriate time of year.  FULLDOME PRODUCTION
The Cowboy Astronomer (3rd-8th) 37 minbaxter
A skillfully woven tapestry of star tales and Native American legends, combined with constellation identification, star-hopping, and astronomy tidbits — all told from the unique viewpoint of a cowboy astronomer who has traveled the world plying his trade and learning the sky along the way.  Explore the stars from a cowboy's point of view!  Narrated by cowboy poet and humorist Baxter Black.  FULLDOME PRODUCTION
Sky Quest (3rd-8th) 25 min

Come along with a young woman on her personal quest to find a special place in the night sky, from her childhood adventures on Mars (via a cardboard rocket), to the discovery of her "birthday star" that led her to become an astronomer and build a mountain observatory to further her lifelong fascination with the heavens. She shares her telescope views of the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn with us; points out stars and constellations; and encourages everyone to make the time to look up, even if stargazing in urban areas with light pollution.
Sky Quest is an entertaining and educational exploration of the night sky that appeals to family members of all ages. Grade-school children may identify most with the main character depicted as an 8-year-old "astronaut" in the 5-minute live-action video shown before the rest of the planetarium projectors are introduced.  FULLDOME PRODUCTION.

Cosmic Colors (5th-Adult)  33 min
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 at 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!  FULLDOME PRODUCTION  Teacher Activity Guide
Bad Astronomy Logo
Bad Astronomy: Myths and Misconceptions (8th-Adult) 40 min
Were the Apollo visits to the Moon actually a hoax? Have aliens landed on Earth? Can you tell your future by the stars? Are movies like Star Wars and Star Trek realistic? Prepare to debunk and tackle these misconceptions head-on with the planetarium show Bad Astronomy: Myths and Misconceptions.  Based on the popular book and website of 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 audiences how science can be used to evaluate questionable claims.
Black Holes (8th-Adult) 40 min
Black Holes takes you on a journey through one of the most mystifying, awe-inspiring, phenomena in the universe: a black hole. Where do they come from? Where do they go? How do we find them? Is there one on Earth's horizon? Using the latest in full-dome, 3D animation visualization technology.

Ring World

Ring World (5th - Adult)  35 min
Stunning Saturn is visited by the Cassini spacecraft.  After its nearly seven year sojourn, the spacecraft will spend another four years investigating the alluring planet, its many moons, and spectacular system of rings.  The Cassini mission also includes a probe that lands on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.  Prepare yourself for exciting discoveries and new views of Saturn.  FULLDOME PRODUCTION
Mars Update (5th-Adult) 16 min
The show begins with how our views on Mars have changed over the years - from H.G. Wells and Percival Lowell to Spirit and Opportunity.  The show highlights  Mars missions up to and including the recent Mars Exploration Rovers.  FULLDOME PRODUCTION

Dark (7th-Adult) 25min
DARK is a planetarium show that explains and explores the nature of Dark Matter, the missing 80% of the mass of the Universe.  The search for Dark Matter is the most pressing astrophysical problem  of our time – the solution to which will help us understand why the universe is as it is, where it came from, and how it has evolved over  billions of years – the unimaginable depths of deep time, of which a  human life is but a flickering instant.  But in that instant, we can grasp its immensity and, through science, we can attempt to understand it.  The show is presented by Dr. Alan Duffy, a brilliant young astronomer from the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) at the University of Western Australia  – who creates simulations of Dark Matter evolution inside  supercomputers. Alan introduces us to the idea of Dark Matter, why  astronomers think it exists, and explains why Radio Astronomy is so  well-suited to its discovery.  We explore why the new Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) Telescope, currently under construction in remote Western Australia, will be so important in this scientific quest. But this is only the beginning.  We journey through completely immersive visualizations of Dark Matter evolution calculated upon some of the world’s fastest supercomputers  – cosmological visions on a truly vast scale, in which galaxies  themselves are but points of light, distributed across far larger  intergalactic structures of Dark Matter. These visualizations, developed  by Paul Bourke, demonstrate the  cutting-edge of contemporary supercomputer visualization of massive  scientific data sets and astrophysical simulation.  It sounds like Science Fiction, but it’s not. It’s the real stuff. Real Data, seen in this way for the very first time.
More Than Meets The Eye
More Than Meets The Eye (5th - Adult) 17 min/31 min
What can you see when you look up in the sky tonight? A planet, a constellation, a galaxy, or maybe a nebula where stars are being born? There's "More Than Meets The Eye" in this fascinating new show. Come explore the wonders of Minnesota's beautiful night sky as we show you what you can see with just your unaided eyes. Then take a deeper look when the sky is revealed as seen through binoculars or a small telescope. Finally, compare all of that to the images taken from the big observatories or spacecraft.  The show also briefly discusses the effects of atmospheric turbulence, that stars have different colors, how only time exposure photos produce brilliant colors in galaxies and nebulae. Students will also learn where to look in the sky at different seasons to see these objects for themselves.   You'll be amazed at what can be seen under Minnesota skies!
Featured celestial objects (Short version): Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Orion Nebula(M42), Andromeda Galaxy(M31), Milky Way, Butterfly [open] Cluster(M6) & Open Cluster(M7), Lagoon Nebula(M8) & Trifid Nebula (M20).
Long Version:  Includes the short version plus the Moon, Pleiades [open] Cluster(M45), Alcor/Mizar, Ring [planetary] Nebula(M57), Crab Nebula(M1), Beehive [open] Cluster(M44), Albireo, Epsilon Lyrae, Hercules [globular] Cluster(M13). 
Larry Cat In Space (Preschool - 2nd) 30 min
is a playful, imaginative cartoon presentation about an inquisitive cat who takes a trip to the Moon.  Through Larry's eyes, we observe his human family, a group of enthusiastic sky-watchers.  Larry's master, Diana, takes a job on the Moon, and sadly leaves Larry behind.  Larry figures out a way to get to the Moon to be with Diana.  Larry encounters weightlessness, lunar gravity, and even ventures out on the Moon wearing his Cat Spacesuit where he spots the Earth, looking a lot like the Moon did from the porch at home.
Magellan - Report from Venus
Magellan Report From Venus (5th - adult) 29 min
The Magellan radar-mapping mission to Venus was extraordinarily successful; the spacecraft returned more data than all NASA's previous planetary missions combined. Now, MAGELLAN: Report from Venus brings Magellan's images to you at the SMSU Planetarium!  In this show, we follow Magellan's progress, from its launch through the most significant discoveries. Included are spectacular images of volcanoes, impact craters and landslides. Important planetary science topics of volcanism, tectonism, impact cratering are covered; and we discuss radar imaging, the history of Venus exploration, and compare Earth and its "sister planet."


MarsQuest (5th - Adult) 40 min
MarsQuest is a chronicle tracing our centuries-long cultural and scientific fascination with the planet Mars. Set in a theatrical style "three-act" form with an epilogue, it weaves a satisfying narrative of what Mars means to humanity.  In the first section, "Homage," we trace Mars through history -- from an "incantation" of the various War God forms given by different cultures, to the early observations of Schiaparelli and Lowell, and the infamous "canals" which led to science-fiction stories about Martians. We hear excerpts from H. G. Wells "War Of The Worlds" and Edgar Rice Burroughs's "Barsoom" novels.  "Mars In Focus" details the Mars of our time -- as seen in the night sky, through binoculars and telescopes, and from our Mars explorations. Mission findings from more than a quarter century of spacecraft missions feature reports on Mars weather, climate, and areology. We compare the climate and terrain of Earth and Mars, and present the current thinking about the areologic history of the planet, and a rationale for future exploration"Mars In The Future" examines where on Earth we can prepare to live on Mars, what will be needed to get crewed missions there, and what the first landing may be like.  The show ends with "Rhapsody On A Red Planet," a poetically-styled "ode to Mars", this time from a future perspective; an eloquent soliloquy tracing the efforts that led to our first footsteps onto the desolate and dusty Martian surface.
The Voyager Encounters
The Voyager Encounters (5th - Adult) 43 min
This is the definitive summary, recapping all of Voyager's encounters with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in one convenient, thorough documentary. The show discusses the functions of Voyager's instrument packages; the highlights of each flyby; and compares and contrasts each of the planets atmospheres and magnetic fields, their moons and ring systems.
Hubble Vision
Hubble Vision 2 (5th - Adult) 30 min
Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided incredible images in unprecedented detail to astronomers, and made an astonishing array of discoveries — from nearby objects in the solar system to the most distant galaxies at the limits of the observable universe.  In this all-new production, major themes in current astronomy and cosmology are presented: new views of the planets; peeks into starbirth nurseries; visions of stardeath in its many forms; explorations of star clusters and galaxies; and views of the universe when the earliest galaxies were first coming into being.  We catch glimpses of solar system objects, including the Moon and Venus; clouds on dusty Mars; Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's crash into Jupiter; storms on Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune; and the faraway worlds of Pluto and Quaoar. Beyond the solar system, we explore protoplanetary disks in the Orion Nebula, and regions of starbirth across the cosmos. We witness the deaths of stars like our Sun; the cataclysmic aftermath of supernovae in the Crab Nebula; and the expanding rings around Supernova 1987a. We see breathtaking views of colliding galaxies; jets shooting from active galactic nuclei, powered by supermassive black holes; the eerie effects of gravitational lenses; and deep-field views of the most distant galaxies ever seen.  HUBBLE Vision 2 is a factual journey through the universe, as seen through the unblinking eye of one of the world's premier telescopes.
Light Years From Andromeda
Light Years from Andromeda (5th-Adult) 30 min
A beam of light leaves the Andromeda Galaxy and travels across the void of intergalactic space.  As the light speeds across the light years, over the course of centuries, the early people on a planet located in a nearby galaxy form cultures and civilizations – and begin to wonder about the universe surrounding them. Their awareness of the night sky increases, as the beam of light draws nearer to their planet. When the light reaches the Earth, some of the descendants of the early hunters have just escaped the bonds of their world, gravity, and visited the Moon. In modern times, scientific study of space help the planet’s current inhabitants to understand the properties of light, and the ways that understanding shapes our further knowledge of the universe.
The Star Gazer
The Stargazer (4th - Adult)
Come along on a journey to the stars with University of Illinois astronomer Jim Kaler in a brand new planetarium production.  Nichelle Nichols (Chief Communications Officer Uhura from the original Star Trek) and Dr. Kaler narrate this three-part personal look at astronomy.  The show begins with a child's curiosity, moves on to the science of gravity, light, the spectrum, and how they help us decipher the lifestyles of the stars, then ends with reflections on the deeper meanings of astronomy in our own lives.
The Universe of Dr. Einstein (7th - Adult) 55 min
What would the world look like if we rode on a beam of light?  That is the immensely simple question Albert Einstein asked.  The answer he found changed the world.  Einstein's discoveries penetrated to the hearts of stars and to the farthermost reaches of the cosmos.  This program reviews the life of Albert Einstein and explains in simple detail the concepts of his work in Special and General Relativity. It also describes the world's response to his work and the problems he had with Nazi Germany.  Enter this incredible realm with us:  "The Universe of Dr. Einstein" - a new star program at the SMSU Planetarium.
Star Of Wonder (family) 35 min
What was the Star of Bethlehem? Was the “star” a planet or maybe a supernova? Is there a scientific explanation for the “star?”  In this program, the steps of the Magi are retraced in their 600-mile search for the Star of Bethlehem.  Educational and entertaining, “Star of Wonder” uses scientific data, religious history, beautiful imagery, and traditional music to explore the mystery that has puzzled astronomers and theologians for centuries. This production offers several possible explanations for the famous star-like object that, according to historical records, led the wise men and shepherds to the place of Christ’s birth.  Was the Star of Bethlehem a planet, a comet, a meteor, a supernova?  Or was it simply an unexplainable phenomenon?  This show also explores how astronomers use historical records and scientific calculations to determine the time of Christ’s birth, and shows how planets move and meet with stars and how calendars have changed through the ages.
'tis The Season
Tis The Season (family) 36 min
'Tis The Season recounts the historical religious and cultural rituals practiced during the time of winter solstice --  Christian, Jewish, Celtic, Pagan, Nordic, Roman, Egyptian and Hopi traditions are looked at.  It also takes a look at some of our more light-hearted seasonal traditions: from gift-giving and kissing under the mistletoe to songs about lords a-leaping and ladies dancing; and the custom of decking the halls with greenery and candles.  St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus all drop by as well.  Naturally, there is some astronomy in 'Tis The Season.  We catch a few Northern winter constellations, and we illustrate why we even have seasons -- demonstrating the Sun's path across the sky throughout the year, and the Earth's tilt and orbit around the Sun.  And of course, we explore the possible astronomical explanations for a Star over Bethlehem -- comets, meteors, novae, supernovae, and planetary conjunctions.
Mystery of the Christmas Star (family) 30 min
Mystery of the Christmas Star takes audiences on a journey back 2000 years to Bethlehem to discover a possible scientific explanation for the star the wise men followed to find the Christ child. This program investigates recorded sightings of significant astronomical events during the time of the birth of Christ. Investigators will see which of these signs in the sky could have been remarkable enough to cause the wise men to travel across the desert from Babylon just to see a newborn King. This modern retelling of the Christmas story is sure to charm and captivate audiences of all ages.  You will be immersed in spectacular images while this show offers a scientific view of  what the star of Bethlehem may have been.  The planetarium is a perfect place to study this because of its ability to exactly reproduce the skies as seen from Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago.
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Last Modified: 2/23/18 4:11 PM