What has stadium seating, purple movie theater chairs, and a movie-screen laden dome ceiling? The John C. Wells Planetarium, that’s what. If you’ve had a class in Miller Hall or took GHTH 100 and completed your passport events—you might have noticed it. But, unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that a majority of JMU students don’t even know it exists.
Having been renovated in 2007, this planetarium is on a whole new level—a level only three other planetariums in the world can claim. The university spent $1.5million on this renovation in updates like the digital movie capability, a massive stellar projector with more than a hundred lenses, and the GOTO Cronus star ball that makes it possible to achieve an authentic view of what the night sky would look like at any location on earth, at any given time.
The majority of shows that the planetarium presents feature the universe, space, and stars, but on occasion they cater to the younger generations of the JMU and Harrisonburg community. For example, the show “One World, One Sky” is Sesame Street themed and takes the audience on a trip accompanied by Big Bird and friends from their street to the moon.
This Saturday they’ll be presenting the “Seven Wonders” show. After seeing it last week, I guarantee that going is well worth it! The moment the light drops you are propelled into complete darkness—it’s like entering into another world. Then the show begins and the audience is taken back thousands of years to travel through Egypt, Persia, and Rhodes, exploring the ancient wonders of the world as they appeared then. Through the film, you’ll also be theorizing about how these wonders were built.
For the busy college student, a plus about these shows are that most last only 20-30 minutes. So check out their website for upcoming shows! Also, if you need a credit or haven’t taken the lab requirement for your General Education, consider taking GSCI 104: Exploring the Night Sky. The course is taught by Shanil Virani— the planetariums director!