W.J. McCallion Planetarium


Department of Physics & Astronomy > W.J. McCallion Planetarium
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Banner and navigation constellation images from the open source planetarium software, Stellarium:


Previous Shows

The shows below are available on request for private group bookings. Each show is designed by a different presenter, so please keep in mind that availability will be more restricted (unlike with a general private show, by selecting a specific topic you are also specificying the presenter). For reservations, email planetarium@physics.mcmaster.ca or call (905) 525-9140 ext. 27777.
A History of Cosmic Perspectives
When the ancient Greeks looked up at the skies, they imagined the Earth at the centre of our Universe, surrounded by the Sun, the planets, and the multitudes of stars. During the Renaissance, that viewpoint was supplanted by Copernicus' heliocentric system, where the Earth and the other planets revolved around the Sun. Follow in the footsteps of modern astronomers, as we find out that the centre of our vast Universe was not the Earth, or the Sun, or even our host galaxy, the Milky Way.
Ancient Astronomy
The night sky is likely the only sight an ancient human would recognize in today's world. The stars and sights we see today are the same as those seen by our most distant ancestors. Hear the legends of the constellations, learn to navigate by the stars, and see how human cultures have used and continue to use astronomy to prosper. Come and join us at the planetarium to connect with our ancestors and see the cosmos as they did.
Cosmic Footprints
Since the launch of the Sputnik space probe in 1957, nothing has captured our imaginations like the exploration of the Universe we live in. Along with the hundreds of satellites sent to orbit the Earth, numerous probes have been sent to planets and other objects in the Solar System and beyond. Join us as we take a look back at the history of space exploration, the alien worlds it has shed light on and what we have learned as of today, as well as a look ahead to future missions in this 21st century.
I'm a human being, and if you are too, you probably live on the planet Earth. That planet orbits a star called the Sun, in a galaxy called the Milky Way, which itself is embedded in the universe. I think that's pretty interesting, and so I've always wanted to know more about this place that we call home. I study how the galaxies we see in the universe grow and change over time, and how the things inside them (stars and gas) interact with each other. I use computer simulations to study how these things happen over billions of years. During my shows, I will show you a little slice of this universe, and how we fit into it. How did the Universe begin? What happened in the first 10 billion years before our Solar System existed? How will the Universe end? Find out in this show about the origin, evolution, large-scale structures, and fate of the Universe.
What are the different types of eclipses, why don't they occur more often, and how can we safely observe them? During this show we'll discuss the answers to these questions, as well as when can we next see such events from southern Ontario. We'll also explore other types of transits, eclipses and occultations that we can see not only from the Earth, but also other places in the Solar System.
Festive Skies
The festive season looms as the nights draw in and we get closer to the winter solstice. Join us in the planetarium for a show to learn about the season's skies - both past and present. Discover why we have seasons and why we see different constellations at different times of the year, and then explore one of the greatest astronomical mysteries: the Star of Bethlehem.
International Observe the Moon Night
Join us in the planetarium to learn all about the Moon, no matter what the weather! Why does the Moon appear to change shape; when do eclipses occur; why does it change location and colour? These are some of the questions we'll answer throughout the show. If you have another question about the Moon, bring it along!
Life in the Universe: Setting the Stage
Life is the most complex chemical process that we know of. Even the simplest organisms are composed of millions of atoms, arranged in a staggering number of different compounds. But life as we know it is not something that has always existed. For 10 billion years, the universe was, to the best of our knowledge, lifeless. But these countless aeons were not spent in stagnation. The universe itself was evolving, growing, and the changes that were taking place in it set the stage for the eventual rise of life on Earth. This show is about that first 10 billion years, from the earliest point after the Big Bang, to the first single-celled organism swimming in Earth's ancient oceans.
Life in the Universe: The Search
Since the dawn of civilization, humanity has wondered whether life existed among the stars. With the dawn of modern astronomy, tools have become available that can start to answer this question. From the classic SETI radio survey, to searching for Dyson spheres with space telescopes, we have been looking for evidence of alien intelligence for decades. Messages have also been sent out to likeliest locations for life!
Moons of the Solar System
Our Solar System is home to eight planets, a diverse family of worlds. While many are familiar with the incredible sights of these planets, fewer know that there is even more variety among these planets. 173 moons. In this show, I will take you through a tour of some of the more spectacular moons of the Solar System, from icy Europa, to volcanic Io. Along the way, we will learn about how planets and moons form when a solar system begins to coalesce. We will also learn about the incredible story of how our own Moon formed.
New Horizons
After nearly a decade in space, the fastest launched spacecraft ever built finally reached its destination on July 14, 2015: Pluto. New Horizons is but one piece in a renaissance of robotic space exploration: the first of NASA's New Frontiers program, it has revealed for the first time the surface of the mysterious, icy world of Pluto. In this show, we will retrace the steps of New Horizons over its nine-year journey. We will also see some of the other remarkable destinations that humanity has begun exploring in 2015, and where we plan to go over the next decade.
The Case of the Disappearing Planet
In 2006, Pluto got demoted from planetary status. Now we only have eight planets in our Solar System. What happened?! This show will take you on a journey to the mysterious astronomical objects that we find in the furthest reaches of our Solar System. We will explore what we know about this former planet, what we hope to discover in an upcoming mission to Pluto, and discuss the events and controversies around the decision to make Pluto a dwarf planet.
The Celestial Bear: The Six Nations' Night Sky
"That is how I heard the story, so I thought that is how you would hear it as well..." Join us for a fascinating show that blends local culture, history and modern-day astronomy that shares the Six Nations' sky lore and language through traditional indigenous night-sky stories. With narration and visuals by a live presentation and pre-recorded excerpts (in English, Mohawk and Cayuga), learn about the story of the bear and the brothers and how it is retold every year with the rotating patterns in the night sky. See the same stars with a completely different understanding and appreciation!his show was collaboratively-produced by members of the Six Nations, McMaster's Indigenous Studies Program, and the McCallion Planetarium.
The Transit of Venus
And if you missed the first chance in 2004, the next time Venus passes in front of the Sun in June 2012 is your last chance before 2117! A rare spectacle to observe today, these transits have also been historically important for determining the size of our Solar System. This show will put the relevance of these events into context by exploring the handful of past observations in recorded history - and will also tell you when, where and how to observe the 2012 transit.
Tour around the Solar System
Where are the planets in our current skies? How do we look for them, and how will they change their appearances? What do the planets look like through telescopes or from the spacecraft in orbit around them? This show will take you to the edge of our Solar System and back... to the hills of Mars, the icy rings of Saturn, Jupiter's volcanic moon and more.