“Celestial Hauntings” Show Combines Spooky Season and Existential Crises


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HO TUNG “VIS LAB”: Community members enjoy a spine-tingling live sky and planetarium show.

Cotton cobwebs cling to the banisters of the Ho Tung Visualization Lab, the safety lights lining the stairs glow a menacing red, and a veritable monster mash of skeletons, scarecrows, headless horsemen, ghosts and spiders glare out at the audience from around the room. At the front of the auditorium looms an extraterrestrial complete with silvery-green skin, pointed ears, vibrant blue hair, and metallic eyelashes that reflect what little light is in the dim room. This is the Ho Tung Visualization Lab at its spookiest, and it’s truly a wonder to behold. 

The extraterrestrial at the front of the room is none other than junior Charlie Filipovich, a space enthusiast and the narrator of the “Celestial Hauntings” show, in full costume.

Over the course of the hour-long show, Filipovich uses the lab’s cutting-edge Digistar 7 technology to take the audience on a journey through space with her charming narration as guide.

Filipovich took the audience on a tour of our night sky through astrological features both visible and familiar to us as well as those invisible to the naked eye that we could only see through the aid of the visualization lab. 

Along the way, Filipovich engaged with the audience through questions like “Can anyone guess what those dots are?” and provided helpful hints when the audience was stumped like, “It rhymes with Shplanets.”

First-year Diya Mehta is a frequent visitor to the Ho Tung Visualization Lab and has attended almost every show they offer but was especially impressed by the “Celestial Hauntings” Show. 

“The presentation simplified a lot of complex topics about astronomy in a way that was not only fun to listen to but also engaging visually. Being in the planetarium and a part of the action just made it so much better,” Mehta said.

Towards the end of the presentation, Filipovich treated the audience to an existential crisis by flying them out of our little solar system, out of our Milky Way, and into the farthest known reaches of our universe on a “galaxy zoom” of her own design. 

As the audience soared billions of light-years in a matter of seconds, the passing galaxies presented like bioluminescent jellyfish in an inky black ocean. 

First-year students Georgia Magnuson-Lee and Alicia Conklin attended the showing and were awed by this visual in particular.

“Seeing the number of galaxies that have been discovered thus far put into perspective just how small we really are and left me with more questions than answers, but those existential questions were interesting to ponder and discuss with one another,” Magnuson-Lee said.

When the audience eventually reached the edge of the universe and looked back towards our own little planet, they were treated to an explosion of colors and pinpricks of light, each designating just one of the more than two trillion galaxies that make up our universe. 

“We are but a speck of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” Filipovich said, paraphrasing the words of famed astronomer Carl Sagan. With these words lingering in the air, Filipovich set course for home and sent the audience soaring towards Earth once more. 

More than the Party City creatures lining the walls, the eerie visuals projected on the ceiling, or Filipovich’s narration itself, perhaps the most frightening aspect of “Celestial Hauntings” was the knowledge of just how small we are in the grand scheme of the universe. 

Having worked in the Visualization Lab for nearly three years, Filipovich has come to respect and appreciate how small our “tiny blue dot” is in proportion to the vastness of the universe, and this understanding has become a crucial part of her life-philosophy and world-view. 

“We are literally living on a rock in space orbiting a giant gas ball; so take that class you’ve been eyeing, ask out that person you’ve been low-key crushing over for weeks and plan that cross-country road trip with your dog. Go exploring and discover the person you’ve always wanted to be. I promise it will be worth it,” Filipovich said.

Although Saturday, Oct. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 31 were the final Celestial Hauntings shows of the season, a wide variety of other free weekend shows are available to the public every Friday and Saturday on the 4th floor of the Ho Science Center. So, what’s stopping you? The universe is out there just waiting for you to explore it!