Public Program Schedule

2016-2017 Public Program Schedule

*All programs include live star and constellation indentification.




Show Descriptions

Signature Shows

The night sky changes with the seasons, and so does our Skywatch program. This LIVE traditional star talk shows the current night sky, constellation lore, and current astronomical events.

One of our most popular shows returns for our golden anniversary! STARS focuses on the lives of the stars, how they are born, how they die, and how human understanding of the stars has changed over time. From Native Americans to Newton, from the electromagnetic spectrum to Einstein, audiences will explore nebulae, star clusters, pulsars, black holes, and more. The program features the voice talent of Mark Hamill.

Nightlights 3.0
The Ward Beecher Planetariumís spooky and spectacular annual Halloween spectacular has been going strong since 1974! This year, there are new songs and old favorites.  Come in costume!  Great for all ages, although younger visitors might be scared of the loud music and dark.

Holiday Lights
The Ward Beecher Planetariumís annual Holiday program combines lights, music, and visual effects with the wonders of the winter season and outer space. Content changes from year to year as we unwrap new titles and visuals. Suitable for all ages.

Natural Selection *NEW*
We will join Darwin on his voyage with the HMS Beagle to the Galapagos Islands where he was inspired to develop his later theory of transmutation by natural selection.
From the comfort of Down House in Kent, Darwin himself will explain the mechanism of natural selection to the audience, and support it by showing many beautiful examples in nature.
The thrill of a scientific discovery, the adventure of science and the beauty of nature are central in this show. This program is a joint presentation of YSUís Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Biology.

Throughout Earthís violent history, impacts from comets and asteroids have mercilessly shaped its surface. The ancient barrage continues today; from harmless meteors Ė those brilliant streaks in the night sky, to mountain sized boulders wandering perilously close to Earth. Terrifying and majestic, these invaders from space are capable of utter destruction yet they have delivered life-giving water and most of the organic materials necessary for life.

Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity
Among the most mysterious and exotic objects in the Universe, Black Holes tantalize everyone that learns about them. These dark beasts are one of a few phenomenon out in the cosmos where the known laws of physics and general relativity break down. "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity" explores the power and grace of these cosmic beasts.

Totality *NEW*
This program is all about eclipses Ė both lunar and solar. Totality shows visitors how they occur and what happens when they do. We look back to the proof of general relativity and look forward to upcoming eclipses and where to witness them. A very special part of the show relates, in a very human way, what happens when you are caught in the shadow of the Moon and the Sun is plunged into a total solar eclipse. We will get you ready for the solar eclipse occurring August 21, 2017!

Family Shows

Legends of the Night Sky: Perseus & Andromeda *NEW*
Children and adults will enjoy this animated show where Aesop the owl leads you on a light-hearted journey as you look at the Greek mythology associated with some of our constellations. This includes stories behind the mighty warrior Perseus, beautiful princess Andromeda, Cetus the terrible sea monster.

The Halloween Show
All the teachers are sick so itís up to Holly, a student witch, to go to the annual Halloween Conference. What if she gets lost? No problem. A friend, Jack OíLantern, shows Holly how to use the stars to find her way around the night sky.  The history and traditions of Halloween are presented in a fun, non-scary style, making this show ideal for all ages.

The Alien Who Stole Christmas
Enjoy a tour of winterís evening sky and then join jolly old Saint Nick and Mr. Freep as they explore the solar systemís planets and meet the Christmas Eve needs of their fictitious inhabitants.

Legends of the Night Sky: Orion *NEW*
Aesop the owl continues his journey in a light-hearted adventure as you look at the Greek mythology associated with some of our constellations. This includes stories behind Orion the hunter, and Scorpio the scorpion!

This Is Our Sky!
Join Luna and her friends for an exploration of the sky, seasons, moon phases, constellations, and planets. Luna takes the audience on a tour of all the wonderful things about Earth, the Moon, the planets, constellations, and more!

Super Sky Show
It's a talk show with a twist: host Seymour Sky has guest "stars" that really shine. Meet Queen Cassiopeia, Draco and other luminaries!

The Little Star That Could
A little star is born, and he's average. But there's nothing wrong with being average, as our little star discovers, especially if you want to have a planet with life! The program looks at different sizes and colors of stars and our solar system.

Lecture Series

The Ward Beecher Planetarium is proud to introduce our new lecture series: astronomers will visit for LIVE presentations on the latest fascinating findings on a wide variety of topics!

February 17: Hello! Is Anyone Out There? Some Thoughts on Exoplanets and Life 
Dr. Darren Williams, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Penn State Behrend, will talk about the state of exoplanet detection, including the most tantalizing discoveries, as well as an introspective view of what other possible civilizations are learning about us.


March 17: Our Place in the Universe
From Galileo, to Edwin Hubble, to scientists using NASA's Space Telescope, our understanding of the fundamental question, "What is our Place in the Universe" has been overthrown numerous times.  Join Dr. Jason Kalirai (from the Space Telescope Science Institute) as he journeys the cosmos and shapes a roadmap to answer the next installment of this question; Are we Alone?

April 21: Gasbags and Blowhards: Supermassive Black Holes in the Universe
The center of every large galaxy - including our own Milky Way - hosts a supermassive black hole. When they grow, these monsters can spit out as much stuff as they swallow in giant jets and fast winds. Dr. Sarah Gallagher of Western University (London Canada) will introduce these exotic eruptors and discuss their role in shaping the galaxies they inhabit.

May 5: The Dark Side of the Universe
In the 1960ís, any astronomer could tell you, in detail, what the universe was made of.  Today, thanks to 50 years of progress, no one can.  Dr. Robin Ciardullo of Penn State University will discuss what we know about the mystery that is Dark Matter, and the baffling quantity that is generally called Dark Energy.  He will also give hints as to what we might learn about the invisible universe in the near future.

Special Events

Opening Weekend
Help us kick off our 50th anniversary right on September 23 and 24! Pick out your favorite planetarium show and we will show it to you!

So You Want to Buy a Telescope/So You Got a Telescope
The Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society (MVAS) has been offering help and advice the past few years to telescope owners. 
So You Want to Buy a Telescope returns on Saturday, November 12 to help you make wise choices when it comes to the purchase of your own telescope.

So You Got a Telescope takes place on Saturday, February 4.
People are invited to bring their new scopes (and ones that have been gathering dust) and have one-on-one time with the MVAS experts.
Both programs will be held from 1-3 p.m.   The format is drop in anytime in the two hours.

Our fantastic mix of music and light returns January 20 and 21! New shows and new effects and lots of fun!  While the Ward Beecher Planetarium has always been and will always be free and open to the public, a suggested donation of $1.00 per person for this special event will allow us to continue to bring programs like this to the Mahoning Valley.

Visitor Appreciation Weekend
As a big THANK YOU for a great year, you get an encore: vote for any of our shows on this yearís schedule, and we will run it one more time!