Explore ancient stories of the stars
Many stories about the stars date back to ancient Mesopotamia.
"TV was bad that time," MHCC Planetarium Director Pat Hanrahan jokes, noting how star patterns have entertained us for millennia. "People looked up to the stars and came up with stories. Some of those are still with us today."
Hanrahan will present "Stellar Dramas: Ancient Stories of the Stars" at 6 and 7:15 p.m. Tuesday and Friday, April 3 and 6, at the planetarium, on the MHCC campus, 26000 S.E. Stark St. He says these stories serve as guideposts to learning about the sky.
The full-dome show will introduce audience members to constellations, speak of their stories and show attendees how they relate to other constellations.
"I want visitors to enjoy themselves and learn the sky better," Hanrahan says. "With this show, I'd like them to learn how constellations fit together."
Hanrahan says that many of the 88 constellations we use to map our sky came down to us through ancient mythology.
Among the easier constellations to pick out is Orion, which represents a great hunter surrounded by animals in the sky. Because he was too successful, one of the gods decided Orion needed to be taken from Earth and placed in the sky far away from prey that could become extinct. It was the scorpion that killed Orion and today Scorpius and Orion are placed far apart from each other in the sky.
"Throughout these stories, there is some kind of rhyme and reason as to the placement of the constellations in the sky," Hanrahan says.
Another common saying is how March comes in as a lion and goes out like a lamb. The lion, represented by Leo, rises in the east. By the end of March, the lamb, represented by Aries sets in the west.
While he loves to explain the science of stars, Hanrahan knows storytelling is also important. He encourages participants to quit worrying about what they don't know and let their curiosity guide them.
"When my daughter was young, I tried to show her the technical aspects of astronomy," Hanrahan says. "The thing she enjoyed the most was getting out the blankets and pillows, looking up at the sky and hearing stories about the stars. Sometimes you just have to grab a chair, look at the sky and appreciate it."
Hanrahan has presented at the planetarium for going on a decade and strives to make his presentations active and entertaining, with plenty of audience participation.
One of the aspects of his presentations Hanrahan has found most gratifying is fielding questions from young attendees. He's had second-graders ask him about The Theory of General Relativity before.
"I admire the kids," Hanrahan says. "They put together very good questions."
Hanrahan encourages questions from participants of all ages.
Following "Stellar Dramas," Hanrahan will present two more planetarium shows before the end of the school year. On May 8 and 11, he will speak about "Ice Worlds: Is There Life Elsewhere Within Our Solar System?" Then on June 5 and 8, he will present "Big Astronomy from Chile."
If you go
What: MHCC Planetarium presents "Stellar Dramas: Ancient Stories of the Stars"
When: 6 and 7:15 p.m. Tuesday and Friday, April 3 and 6
Where: Mt. Hood Community College's Planetarium, located below the library in room AC1305, 26000 S.E. Stark St., Gresham.
Cost: $5 for the general public; $2 for children 17 and younger and MHCC students with ID.
Info: mhcc.edu/planetarium; seating is limited and available on a first come, first-served basis.