Stargazing at The Planetarium

College of Southern Nevada

Professor Goldwater lecture at CSN’s Planetarium

By Ricardo Torres

From the moment the wheels of the Curiosity Rover first spun on Mars’ surface, the media and public have been fascinated with NASA and astronomy.

Located in the eastside of the College of Southern Nevada’s Cheyenne Campus, one of just two public planetariums in the state can be found. Since the 1970’s, The Planetarium has benefited the valley’s general public, space exploration enthusiasts, and CSN students.

On any given evening this semester, astronomy students are entertained by Professor Dave Goldwater’s passion-filled lectures. When asked about his inspiration in pursuing astronomy, Professor Goldwater responded, “What keeps me inspired is not only that this is the most amazing subject I know, but we are constantly learning new and amazing things about our universe.”

Professor Goldwater has been part of CSN’s faculty since 1999, becoming a full-time astronomy professor in 2003. His interests for astronomy started in his high school years when he became an active amateur astronomer.

In the domed planetarium, during one of Goldwater’s lectures recently, it was clear that the students were attentive, happy, and interactive with the professor who explained complex subjects in simple ways. The instructor-student connection was present and inspiring. Astronomy student Leslie Zemp said, “I just feel that he’s (Goldwater) excited about his subject, that he has knowledge of his subject…and he transfers that excitement to the class.”

Technology is valuable in astronomy, which is why The Planetarium is receiving a projector system upgrade in October, to the most recent state-of-the-art Digistar 5. “With new technology comes an ever expanding understanding, but it also always leads to new questions as well,” says Professor Goldwater. “It can indeed at times be a bit daunting, trying to stay up to date with these discoveries, but that is also one of the reasons why astronomy is such a fun subject.”

Along with the domed theater, the astronomy department has other tools that are beneficial to both students and the community. The College is equipped with an observatory. The Planetarium serves local public schools and offers shows during the week. On Friday and Saturday nights this semester, The Planetarium will host Mayan culture themed shows. After the last showing on Fridays, the audience will be treated to a small tour of the sky and weather permitting, to telescope viewings. The screenings are reasonably affordable, and during the first of the month, entrance is free for students with a valid CSN ID. More information on the shows is available at www.csn.edu/planetarium.

“After taking one of our astronomy courses, they will be well prepared to go on to learn more on their own, take higher level courses, and even become very capable amateur astronomers,” concludes Professor Goldwater.

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