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Fleischmann Planetarium hosts free viewing event May 20 for spectacular annular solar eclipse


Planetarium’s special viewing event to be held at the MacLean Observatory on the Redfield Campus in south Reno

Solar eclipses are not rare events, but perfect eclipses visible from our backyard are. On Sunday evening, May 20, 2012, Reno will be one of only a few cities in the world where an annular solar eclipse will be visible in its entirety (weather permitting), as the Moon aligns exactly in front of the Sun and the Sun appears as a bright ring (annulus) surrounding the Moon.

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Fleischmann Planetarium will host a free viewing event to watch this spectacular occurrence, Sunday, May 20 from 5-7 p.m., at the MacLean Observatory on the University’s Redfield Campus, 18600 Wedge Parkway in southwest Reno. Activities will also include a photovoltaic (PV) demonstration trailer from NV Energy’s Renewable Generations program, a mobile planetarium from the Challenger Learning Center, demonstrations from the University’s College of Education, hands-on activities from the Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada, displays from DRI’s Green Power program, and a high-altitude BalloonSat launch.

The event is free and open to the public. Participants are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner; no alcoholic beverages are allowed on the Redfield campus but beverages and food are available for purchase at nearby restaurants. The event is sponsored by the Planetarium in partnership with the Astronomical Society of Nevada, the Nevada Historical Society and KNPB Channel 5.

“Reno is one of the only cities in the United States that will be very near the central path of this annular eclipse, which will be visible in North America only across parts of the southwestern United States,” says Dan Ruby, associate director of Fleischmann Planetarium. “The period of maximum eclipse as viewed from Reno that day will be from 6:28-6:33 p.m. The next annular eclipse viewable from North America will not appear for another 20 years, and the next total eclipse viewable from across Northern Nevada won’t occur until 2045.”

The path of the May 20 annular solar eclipse will vary in width, averaging about 150-miles wide as it travels across the Pacific Ocean and the southwestern U.S. “Reno is ideal because we are very near the center line and the sun will be still visible about 20 degrees above the horizon as the point of maximum eclipse passes us,” Ruby says. “The moon will be near the furthest point in its orbit and obscure 95 percent of the sun’s disk.”

As an encore to the May 20 annular eclipse, a much more rare transit of Venus in front of the Sun will occur on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 5, 2012, where viewers can see a small black dot of Venus crossing the face of the Sun from about 3 p.m. to sunset.

Ruby cautions that eclipses must be observed with care, as the sun remains bright enough to damage eyesight. The Planetarium’s Science Store on the University of Nevada, Reno campus offers simple and inexpensive solar glasses for direct viewing; eclipse watchers can also build their own indirect viewers. For more information about the annular solar eclipse event at Redfield campus, viewing safety tips, making an indirect viewer, and other eclipse resources, visit the Fleischmann Planetarium’s eclipse website at http://www.eclipsereno.unr.edu .

For more information about the annular eclipse, visit NASA’s comprehensive eclipse site at http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov .

The Planetarium has partnered with the Silver Legacy Resort Casino to offer discount room rates to eclipse visitors from out of town. Call Silver Legacy Reservations, 1-800-687-8733 or (775) 325-7401 and use the Special Offer Code UNRES12 to receive a discounted rate of $99/per night double occupancy for Friday and Saturday nights, May 18 and 19, and $69 for Sunday night, May 20, 2012.

The May 20 public viewing event at Redfield Campus will be followed by a dinner for Planetarium members, featuring speaker Dean Regas of PBS’ Star Gazers program. For more information about the members’ dinner, visit http://www.knpb.org/events/sun_celebration .

Fleischmann Planetarium is part of the University of Nevada, Reno and Extended Studies, offering science-related exhibits, public star shows and large-format science films, as well as public star observing courtesy of the Astronomical Society of Nevada. The Planetarium is open daily to the public and admission is free to its museum; individual and group tickets to Planetarium shows and special events are also available for purchase to nonmembers. Shows are free to Fleischmann Planetarium members.

For more information about joining Friends of the Planetarium as a member, upcoming exhibits, and events and shows playing in the Fleischmann Planetarium Star Theater, call (775) 784-4812 or visit http://www.planetarium.unr.edu .

Built in 1964, the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus was the first planetarium in the world to project full-dome movies, and is currently one of the first of a handful of planetariums around the world to utilize the Spitz SciDome digital projector, a high-resolution, state-of-the-art immersive visualization tool. The projector is also adaptable to a number of disciplines and uses, supporting collaborations among the Planetarium, other University departments and programs, and community organizations. The Planetarium’s uniquely shaped building was designed by famed Reno architect Ray Hellman and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Fleischmann Planetarium serves more than 40,000 visitors a year, including hundreds of school field trips that introduce students, K-12, to the wonders of the universe.

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