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Gateway to the Stars February 2019

Posted January 29, 2019 - by Nick Jarvis

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Gateway to the Stars​ is our monthly, live star show where we'll review the astro-news and sky sights for the coming weeks. But this month, I mostly want to tell a story.

Stories are much more than just lists of events: Our stories—both fictional and nonfictional—carry within them truths about ourselves and our surroundings. We compose stories to impart sensations, emotions, and lessons—ethereal, material, and natural. We seek out stories to induce sensations and emotions and to gain ethereal, material, and natural knowledge. Furthermore, sharing in the experience of a story often brings us closer together to our loved ones. (Anyone been on a movie date lately?)

We don't just tell and consume stories; we live in them. Each of us compose stories which include ourselves as their participants. We use these stories to guide and reflect on our actions, thoughts, and relationships. Nothing is ever "just a story"; everything is a story!

Conceptual Logarithmic Scale of the Observable Universe
Artist's logarithmic-scale conception of the observable universe with the Solar System at the center, inner and outer planets, Kuiper belt, Oort cloud, Alpha Centauri, Perseus Arm, Milky Way galaxy, Andromeda galaxy, nearby galaxies, Cosmic Web, Cosmic microwave background radiation and the Big Bang's invisible plasma on the edge. (Image credit: Unmismoobjetivo​)


The universe, too! For generations, the science of astronomy has been gradually revealing the universe's natural story. This story can be seen and measured; it spans billions of years and unfathomable distances across an expansive setting of countless worlds, yet is still a personal story which you and I have been invited to help enact. Frustratingly, even with great effort over many centuries, we have only uncovered a few precious parts of this story and even those mount a formidable challenge to our imaginations. But even in its incomplete form, the story of our universe—i.e. our cosmology—can add context, vitality, and great emotions and sensations, to the individual stories in which we live.

Even better, it's a picture book! The sky at this time of year holds great sights which serve as illustrations to this story. Many can be appreciated with small telescopes, and many can be appreciated even without. We can explore the great galaxies, such as the nearby Andromeda galaxy; we can study the births of stars and planets in the bright Orion nebula, and we can mark the ghostly clouds - such as the Crab nebula - which memorialize the stars whose intense fires and explosive deaths seed the universe with the ingredients of life: The ingredients from which you and I are made!

You are part of many great and important stories. This month, I've got a pretty good one for you...

Gateway to the Stars is hosted by Nick Jarvis in the Hansen Dome Theater on Saturday, February 2nd at 6:45. Tickets are $2 or free for planetarium members. Get your tickets here  or at the Clark Planetarium box office.