Astronomers estimate that our own Sun is about 4.6 billion years old, give or take a few million years.

And then there’s “Star of Bethlehem” (celebrating its 60th birthday this year), which claims a place among the longest-running planetarium shows in the world. “Star” examines the legendary star from a scholarly perspective, exploring the astronomical events that could have caused such a phenomenon.

Star of Bethlehem“Star” was among the original Morehead productions during the planetarium’s first year of operation. For years, its arrival was marked with the appearance of a plastic star that glowed at night atop Morehead’s roof. (That tradition ended a few years ago when a November storm damaged the plastic star beyond repair.)

Over the years, “Star” has been updated to reflect new scientific knowledge and to showcase new technology, so today’s version probably doesn’t look anything like the “Star” of 1949. In fact, if you look carefully, you’ll even spot a dinosaur in the current version. (UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp once said that a dinosaur appeared somewhere within every Morehead planetarium show. How many have you spied?)

“Star” is still among Morehead’s most popular planetarium shows and has become a seasonal tradition for many families. This year, “Star” begins Nov. 27 and continues through Jan. 3.

Frisbees, cake mix and the very first credit card all appeared around the same time as Morehead's "Star."

black bats against the full Moon
Looking for a thriller of a Halloween? Morehead’s got you covered.

On Thursday, catch the newest Chapel Hill Halloween tradition — “Scare-o-lina Skies,” Morehead’s Halloween take on the classic “Carolina Skies” planetarium show. Explore the hidden stories of mayhem, murder and madness in the constellations! Regular ticket prices apply, just $6 for adults, with shows at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2009.

And now Morehead’s added “Scare-o-lina Skies: Family Edition” so you can bring your school-age kids to join the fun. Catch the family-friendly version on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 3:30 p.m. Kids’ tickets are just $5.

How about the one-of-a-kind “Laser Halloween” experience that combines Halloween-themed music with an amazing light show? It’s perfect for the family, and you can only catch “Laser Halloween” on Halloween Day itself, Oct. 31. Treat yourself to “Laser Halloween” at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. (These replace the regular planetarium shows on the schedule, just for this one day.) Laser shows are premium shows, so special ticket prices apply: $9.50 for adults, $7.50 for students and Morehead members. Sorry, no coupons or passes for premium shows.

Of course, Halloween is a major event on Franklin Street, when monsters and maniacs take over downtown! Morehead closes at 2:30 p.m. on Halloween Day. The university parking lot adjacent to Morehead closes at 3 p.m. and becomes a staging area for public safety vehicles throughout the evening, so if you visit Morehead for “Laser Halloween,” be sure to move your car by 3 p.m.

Karen is taking suggestions for an appropriate Halloween costume.

Try this at home:

  1. Move the best views of the Aurora Borealis directly overhead.
  2. Plug the Aurora Borealis into a nuclear generator. Set it on max capacity.
  3. Add rock music — lots of it — and crank the volume.

Or, instead, come to Morehead and enjoy the laser show experience the easy way!

I’m pretty sure that Albert Einstein wasn’t thinking about rock music when he told the world about photons in the early 20th century. But we should probably thank Albert anyway. His work was key to the development of laser technology and, by 1959, Gordon Gould had introduced the term LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) to the world.

That was 50 years ago. Since then, lasers have become ubiquitous. They can correct your vision, play your DVDs, entertain your cat and eliminate the need for a razor, along with a bunch of top-secret military and corporate stuff that Albert never imagined. Somewhere in the South, someone is probably experimenting with laser-fried chicken (coming soon to a state fair near you!).

Laser shows at Morehead Planetarium

Laser shows at Morehead Planetarium

Those applications of laser technology are everyday activities. But a laser show is a rare experience, something you might see only at your favorite concert, at the Olympics, at the Super Bowl — and, only for the next nine weeks, at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

Morehead chose the very best shows. Led Zeppelin. U2. Pink Floyd, both “The Wall” and “Dark Side.” There’s a classic rock compilation show, and there’s a special Halloween show that we’ll only offer on Oct. 31 (hint: it’s a thriller!). The technology is amazing, many generations beyond that laser show you saw 20 years ago at the Rush concert. And the Star Theater dome is an incredible arena for every show on the schedule.

These laser shows are stunning. Experience them at Morehead. Thank you, Albert!

Craig Zdanowicz took this photo during laser shows at Morehead on Sept. 18.

24 Jul 2009
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If you haven’t heard about Morehead’s new PLANETS portable planetarium program, here’s a sneak peek for you.

portable planetarium inside Morehead\'s Star TheaterThe big “ant” at upper left is our Zeiss Model VI star projector, the centerpiece of Morehead’s Star Theater (and one of only six in the U.S.). The black “igloo” at upper right is the new PLANETS dome, which you’ll see visiting schools and communities across North Carolina.

And the smiling folks in front? You might recognize some of them as our Carolina Skies presenters (we call them “Sky Ramblers”) — Meteor Mike, Richard, Mickey Jo, Elysa, Alisa and Amy. You’ll see Elysa (holding the globe) on the road with PLANETS most often.

Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.

African-American scientists and mathematicians have made tremendous contributions in their fields of study, but you may not be familiar with their names and stories. For example, did you know that Daniel Hale Williams (1856–1931) was the first doctor to perform open-heart surgery in the United States? And that Garrett Augustus Morgan (1877–1963) invented both the gas mask and the traffic signal?

Just last month, Katherine Johnson (born 1918) received a Science Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with NASA, where — as a former Virginia schoolteacher who became a Langley Research Center mathematician — she worked on the teams that calculated flight paths for John Glenn’s mission in 1962 and Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk in 1969.

And Robert Satcher (born 1965), who earned his doctorate in chemical engineering, is an astronaut for NASA today. He has been assigned as a mission specialist for STS-129, which is scheduled for launch in October of this year. Dr. Satcher is featured in Morehead’s “Destination: Space” planetarium show — come see him on the Star Theater dome!

Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.

Morehead members are going to be sooooooooo happy this month. We’ve just added an online system to join and to renew existing memberships. You can find the link to it on our membership page.

This used to be available as part of our camp registration system, but when we changed systems a few years ago, we lost the capability. Members have missed it, and so have we! It’s wonderful to be able to offer this to you again.

Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.

More than 12,000 people will come to Morehead Planetarium and Science Center for One-Stop Voting this month. What we’d REALLY like is for all of those people to bring their family and friends and come back to see a planetarium show!

So … from now until Nov. 9, 2008, if you wear your “I voted!” sticker into the Morehead gift shop, you’ll receive a 2-for-1 discount if you purchase planetarium show tickets for regularly-scheduled public shows. It’s even valid for the special “Scare-o-lina Skies” shows around Halloween.

And while you’re here to vote (via the west entrance), be sure to check out the “Zoom In” and “Ancient Carolinians” exhibits, which will be open whenever possible during “voting hours.” The exhibits are ALWAYS open during public hours on weekends. So is the gift shop. Check ‘em out!

Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.

Are you rabidly loyal to your political party? Do you wear the buttons, post the signs, make the phone calls?

Guess what? The folks who AREN’T like that are the ones who determine elections.

Surprised? Me, too. But that’s the reason political scientists haven’t yet developed a foolproof method of predicting election outcomes.

Dr. George Rabinowitz is going to share behind-the-scenes secrets about election science and voting behavior during Morehead’s Current Science Forum on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. It’s free — be there and bring a friend. This is fascinating stuff! (And think how much more fun it’ll be to watch the debates with your newfound knowledge).

Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.

Okay, the temperature in North Carolina is really not THAT hot. But it feels like that!

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Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.

25 Jul 2008
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Everyone here at Morehead is excited about this new blog. We hope you like it, too. And if you do, you may want to check out some other blogs by Morehead staffers!
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Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.