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UNT offers chance to see rare comet at open house

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

The University of North Texas astronomy department is conducting an open house today that will give the public the chance to see the premiere of the Sky Theater’s newest show and a comet that appears only once every 100,000 years.

It will also include a trip to the UNT Rafes Urban Astronomy Center, where the public can view stars and planets through high-powered telescopes.

UNT officials said the event is to help people learn about space and the objects within the solar system.

“Events like this create a lot of awareness in the community for the observatory, and we encourage people to attend whenever we’re open,” observatory manager Preston Starr said.

Starr said that he encourages the community to attend because of the unique experience the open house will offer.

“This will be the last chance for any alive to be able to see the comet Pan-STARRS,” Starr said. “There are still other comets that can be seen, but you won’t see this one again.”

Other events during the open house include viewing the sun through a specially equipped solar telescope and a nighttime viewing of the stars.

Before the nighttime viewing, the UNT Sky Theater will premiere a show titled Dawn of the Space Age.

“The show is well produced and well made,” Starr said.

The show reviews some of man’s historic achievements in space, including the launch of the first artificial satellite, moon landings and privately operated space flights.

“For those who weren’t alive during the space race or for people who might have forgot about it, this show brings to life the excitement of the race between the U.S. and the Russians,” Starr said.

The open house begins at 5 p.m. at the Sky Theater, located inside the Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building at the corner of Avenue C and Hickory Street. The price for admission is $7 for children and UNT students, $8 for seniors and UNT staff and $9 for adults.

The open house will then move to the Rafes Urban Astronomy Center, 2350 Tom Cole Road, and will conclude with the raffle of a Dobsonion telescope. Raffle tickets are $5 each, and the drawing will be held at 10 p.m.

Starr also encourages attendees to bring their own telescopes because there will be experts present to give lessons on how to properly use them.

To attend only the planetarium presentation, admission is $3 for children and UNT students, $4 for seniors and UNT staff and $5 for adults. Admission is cash or check only.

To attend only the sun and comet viewing, admission is $5 per person.

More information can be found at

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter @JDHarden.