Carnegie showcases Pittsburgh’s night sky

Courtesy of Carnegie Science Center | Guests of all ages were able to view the night sky from Buhl Planetarium, learning about local skies and greater astronomy through host, Kayla Waugaman.

Hannah Peters | Staff Writer

“Welcome to SkyWatch, where I will show you the stars,” said Kayla Waugaman, Buhl Planetarium’s production observatory coordinator and the narrator of their monthly nighttime event.

The room darkened and the screen overhead filled with a replica of the night sky. These weren’t just any stars, but the ones found right here above our own skyline.
Constellations, planets, stars and galaxies came to life as Waugaman explained their importance and history.

Waugaman kept it interesting by highlighting fun facts throughout the show. Guests learned of Pittsburgh’s involvement in becoming a ‘dark sky city’ by switching to lower wattage bulbs in an effort to reduce light pollution and increase energy efficiency.

“This is a great introductory program but also great for more advanced telescope users as well,” Waugaman said.

“As far as astronomy knowledge, there is nothing that you really need to know beforehand because we are going to be teaching you all of that in the planetarium.”

There are three planetarium experiences incorporated in the SkyWatch event including Waugaman’s ‘Stars over Pittsburgh,’ ‘A Beginner’s Guide to the Universe’ and ‘Free Flow’ where guests are invited to lead the session by requesting to view any part of the cosmos that they wish.

By the end, viewers had the knowledge to locate and identify the stars, constellations and planets in their backyard.

Tickets are available to purchase through the Carnegie Science Center website, starting at $12 for nonmembers and $10 for members.

Normally a feature part of the program, visitors are offered the chance to explore the skies with telescopes that are set up on the rooftop.

Despite Saturday’s rain and change of plans, visitors like Mackenzie LeFoster still felt the value of the experience.

“They did a good job of compensating I thought,” said LeFoster “I’m a sap for seeing the stars so just being able to see the entire sky was really cool.”

The range of activities and attractions at the SkyWatch event reflected the overall mission of the Buhl Planetarium.

“Our motto is to ‘delight, educate and inspire,’” Waugaman said. “So we do what we like to call ‘Edutainment,’ where we are educating you in a very entertaining way.”

This is part of why volunteer and former middle school teacher, Peter Frischman, spends his time at the Carnegie Science Center.

“It’s been a learning experience and that’s what makes it fun because I’m still continuing to learn about different things,” said Frischman.

Coming out of a three-year hiatus, they have hit their capacity of around 100 people at each monthly event.

“It’s the ‘a-ha’ moment. That first time that you get to show someone the rings of Saturn or the moon up close,” said Waugaman. “Those kinds of interactions are what really make it special.”