Ho Tung Vis Lab: “Incoming!”



It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an…asteroid? On Friday, September 6th 2019, the Ho Tung Visualization Lab presented the show “Incoming!”, flying its viewers through the solar system at warp speed, looking at how asteroids and their collisions with Earth directly impact life on this planet. After the show, Joe Eakin, Technical Director of the lab gave a detailed “Sky Talk” concerning our constellations and our position in the vast universe. 

The crowd of nearly thirty community members and students witnessed in awe as the show, narrated by George Takei, explains the violent history of Earth’s past. Simulations show how our solar system was created and the way the Earth and Moon formed. As asteroids plummeted the Earth, scientists theorize that important elements for life came with them. Viewers explore the asteroid belt and specific asteroids that scientists have sent probes to study. Impacts of these massive asteroids can greatly impact life onEarth, therefore the show also explains plans of how scientists hope to minimize the damage endured when the next one strikes.

The audience was awed by “Incoming!”. A show such as this speaks to more than one audience. It does not matter if one is majoring in astronomy, stargazes as a hobby, or has absolutely no knowledge of space whatsoever. The content and experience of watching a presentation in a planetarium reaches audiences of all backgrounds, because it speaks of topics on a human level. The things that divide us, the labels we place on ourselves and others, disappear, at least for an hour. For a moment, people are able to forget about the human-created problems of the world and be immersed in something that affects everyone as a species. 

The emotions the audience felt during the presentations is a universal language. Awe, of the vastness of the universe. Fear, as our entire planet, life as we know it, can be altered if our planet gets smashed with asteroids. Admiration, as they see how our small, little planet offers us life, and how we should take care of it to ensure it continues to do so. The presentations are not just educational in the academic sense, but educational in the way that we view ourselves differently; not just as an individual, but part of a much greater community of life. 

Immediately following the movie presentation was a “Sky Talk” performed by Technical Director Joe Eakin. Here, he explained the constellations one would see in the current night sky and some of the mythology behind them. Eakin also explained some history about two planets presently visible in the night sky, along with current pictures of their surface. At the end of the show, Earth’s place in the universe was put in perspective as the audience was taken off of Earth and flown outside of our galaxy. 

“The ‘Sky Talk’ at the end was my favorite part of the show,” said Rebecca Filipovich, a member of the community. “It was informative and I enjoy being able to better relate to what I see when looking up at the night sky.”

The Ho Tung Visualization Lab, located on the fourth floor of the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center, involves and inspires students and community members alike, immersing the audience in visual conceptualizations of the world from a micro scale all the way to a macro lens of the universe. As the lab is typically used in academic classes spanning across disciplines, it also presents shows to the community every Friday night at 6 pm. They will be presenting programs more frequently in the future as student employees learn the system and create their own shows.