Mueller Planetarium reopens with show on black holes and quasars

Released on 03/23/2005, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Saturday, Mar. 26, 2005, through May. 29, 2005

WHERE: Mueller Planetarium, University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall), 14th and U Streets

Lincoln, Neb., March 23rd, 2005 —

Journey with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Mueller Planetarium into a universe of bizarre monsters as the planetarium explores quasars and supermassive black holes in a new show, "Point of No Return," beginning March 26.

After a winter renovation, Mueller Planetarium at the University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall) reopens with this new program produced at the planetarium and based in part on research carried out at UNL. The program will be presented Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 3 p.m. through May 29.

"Point of No Return" delves into the story of quasars, the most powerful steady sources of energy in the universe. Quasars are powered by supermassive black holes with masses millions to billions of times the mass of our sun. It is only within the last few years that astronomers have been acquiring a more complete picture of quasars. "Point of No Return" uses powerful graphics to represent some of the newest discoveries.

The new show, which will be in shown in planetariums around the nation, was created by Mueller Planetarium and produced with financial support from the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute. It is a collaborative effort between members of the Mueller Planetarium staff, and UNL quasar research group members Martin Gaskell, Mary Hiller and Elizabeth Klimek. The late Thomas Gehringer, director of the Burke High School planetarium in Omaha, served as the educational consultant to the show. The show is dedicated to his memory. The show's music is by award-winning composer Mark Petersen.

"As a quasar researcher, I know that quasars and supermassive black holes are bizarre and fascinating objects with many mysteries," Gaskell said. "But as a teacher, I felt that it ought to be possible to convey the fundamental ideas of how they work in a way that non-specialists can appreciate. So, through this show, we hope we are giving people an understanding of what is going on in quasars, and letting them see how the same physical principles that work in everyday life also explain much of what we see going on around supermassive black holes."

The program is the first produced entirely digitally by Mueller Planetarium. "There is much more flexibility and power in being able to create a program in this manner," planetarium coordinator Jack Dunn said. "At the same time, the trade-off is that it is a slow and deliberate process to produce the exact effects and imagery you want."

The Mueller Planetarium showings of "Point of No Return" will be preceded by an introduction to the current night sky's constellations and planets. The entire presentation lasts approximately 35 minutes.

Admission to planetarium astronomy shows is $6 for adults and $4 for all children and UNL students. This price includes museum admission. All tickets are sold at the front desk of the museum once the museum opens for the day (9:30 a.m. Saturdays, 1:30 p.m. Sundays). Laser light shows are not currently being offered. The University of Nebraska State Museum is located at 14th and U streets on the UNL City Campus.

For further information telephone Dunn at (402) 472-2641 or Gaskell at (402) 472-4788; or visit the planetarium Web site (

CONTACTS: Jack Dunn, Coordinator, Mueller Planetarium, (402) 472-2641; and
Martin Gaskell, Senior Lecturer, Physics & Astronomy, (402) 472-4788