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Planetarium to offer northern lights presentation

Posted: February 3, 2012 - 1:13am  |  Updated: February 3, 2012 - 1:25pm
This photo of an unusual spiral-shaped aurora was shot from a hillside about 1,400 feet above Chena Hot Springs Resort northeast of Fairbanks.  Dennis Mammana
Dennis Mammana
This photo of an unusual spiral-shaped aurora was shot from a hillside about 1,400 feet above Chena Hot Springs Resort northeast of Fairbanks.

High above the arctic regions of our planet dance the unearthly colors of the aurora borealis — the northern lights. The public is invited to join Dennis Mammana at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at the Marie Drake Planetarium to learn the origins and lore of these mysterious lights, how to predict their appearance over Juneau, and how to use a camera to capture them like a pro.

Auroral activity increases with the 11-year sunspot cycle. The last peak was roughly ten years ago, in 2000 through 2002. Hence, we are entering the next “maximum” so viewers can expect to see more northern lights. Of course, a clear night and the darkness of fall, winter and spring, are needed.

For more than nearly four decades, Mammana has delivered lectures on the wonder and mystery of the cosmos to audiences around the world. Mammana is a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist and author of six books on popular astronomy. Mammana is also an invited member of The World at Night —an international team of highly acclaimed night sky photographers. He leads public tours to view and photograph celestial events such as total solar eclipses and the aurora borealis. More information about Mammana can be found online at dennismammana.com.

If the aurora kicks up over Juneau and the sky is clear after the presentation, Mammana plans to do some night sky photography and the public is welcome to join him.

Admission to the event is $5 per person or $10 for a family. All proceeds go toward covering expenses. For more information call 500-2941.

The Marie Drake Planetarium, which is run by volunteers, is located in the Marie Drake building downtown. Public shows have been presented by volunteers since 1991. Last year 1,111 people attended planetarium presentations or events. The analog optical and mechanical Spitz projector is 44 years old. The dome is 30 feet in diameter. It is the largest American planetarium dome from Seattle to Fairbanks. The non-profit group, Friends of the Marie Drake Planetarium, support the educational and financial goals of the planetarium which includes seeking grants to purchase a new digital projector.

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