On Monday, Dec. 9, the Earth Science Club and the School of Environmental and Sustainability Studies co-hosted the Season of Light Planetarium Show, a holiday-themed presentation using astronomy to explore the holiday traditions that feature lights. The show ran from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. in the Science Building, Room 330 and was the last of five performances of the show.
A crowd streamed into the planetarium and were immersed in the atmosphere even before the show began. Professor William Heyniger, a lecturer with the School of Environmental and Sustainability Studies and the adviser to the Earth Science Club, who hosted the event, noted that it was the busiest audience the event has yet seen.
Heyniger introduced the presentation by describing the visuals and themes of the light show and ensuring cell phones were put away (both sound and light from phones would interfere with the pitch-black silence of the room). He joked that the crowd should do their best to keep awake despite the dark, soothing show and the inclined seating.
Most importantly, he highlighted that the show was meant for audiences of all backgrounds, featuring all sorts of beliefs and histories. In the cold of winter, a bit of educational and charming entertainment is a welcome event for everybody.
Heyniger explained, "Kean University likes to reach out to not only the campus community, but also to our community at large. So, holiday shows like this...[are] a really good way to achieve a couple of easy accomplishments: A little de-stress before finals...something a little [science-related] and something a little holiday [related]."
As the show began, a star map filled what Heyniger noted is a "hemispheric dome," so named for the way it resembles the shape of a hemisphere. Focus shifted across the sky, highlighting areas of space that inspired many star-based traditions over millennia, then to designs of traditions of nature and spirituality and historical figures whose presence are still felt during the holiday season.
The presentation was structured like an entertaining documentary. While it offered good cheer and referred to warm holiday festivities, it was also incredibly detailed in exploring the historical and philosophical backgrounds to many of the holiday traditions practiced today, and for thousands of years. The show tied connections between the modern celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah, for example, to Roman and Celtic celebrations of the sun and the promise of Spring, and so on.
All of these traditions use light to guide people through dark, cold winters by keeping them close to family and the reassurance that Spring always follows. Hanukkah candles, Christmas lights, the Yule Log and so on - were all meant to inspire optimism and good will during the time of year that, historically, was challenging to endure.
"[It] really meets all [our] goals by exploring the world of astronomy, lowering pressures before the finals start, and getting our community involved...And we like doing these events for our community," Heyniger said.
The planetarium hosts other shows during the year "on demand" according to Heyniger.
Heyniger said, "We try to incorporate some of these into the Introduction to Astronomy classes we have...We'll do community groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, some science groups, so, we really just make it available for everyone, when it's topically available."
For more information about the Earth Science Club, they can be reached at by email at email@example.com; for more about the School of Environmental and Sustainability Studies, they can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.