Our Island Universe

Friday 8:30am & 2:38pm
  • Hosted by Shanil Virani

Our Island Universe is a 90 second look at new discoveries in our understanding of what lies beyond the horizon and what it means to us here on earth.

Our Island Universe is a partnership between WMRA and James Madison University's John C. Wells Planetarium.

Shanil Virani at the John C. Wells Planetarium

Our Island Universe is hosted by Shanil Virani, Director of the state-of-the-art, hybrid John C. Wells Planetarium and a faculty member in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at James Madison University. Shanil did his graduate work at Yale University where he studied supermassive black holes lurking at the centers of galaxies in the nearby and distant Universe. Prior to Yale, Shanil spent 5+ years at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as part of the Science Team of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA's flagship space-based X-ray Observatory. In 2009, he was awarded the Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award medal by the American Astronomical Society for exemplary research. In 2013, he was appointed a Solar System Ambassador by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Solar system ambassadors communicate the excitement of JPL's space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries to people in their local communities. You can find him on Twitter at @shanilv.

The John C. Wells Planetarium at James Madison University is a $2 million, state-of-the-art hybrid facility, the only one of its kind in the world. It hosts both an Evans & Sutherland Digistar 5, an ultra-high resolution digital projection system, and a Goto Chronos opto-mechanical star projector that provides visitors with a superior and realistic night sky. This digital system allows for presentations of unique full dome movies as well as projecting the multi-wavelength universe on the dome. The Goto Chronos starball allows for the projection fo an authentic night sky for any location on the Earth’s surface.

The Planetarium has 72 seats, offers free Saturday public shows, from September thru to the end of June, but is also available for use mid-week by school groups and community groups (i.e., church groups, girl guides/boy scouts, etc.) at no charge by reservation.

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Subscribe to podcasts from the John C. Wells Planetarium

Learn more about public science talks hosted by the John C. Wells Planetarium

Hello Out There...

Oct 19, 2017

On this episode of Our Island Universe: If there is a high probability of life in the universe, why haven't we ever been contacted by another form of life?

Hitchhiking by Asteroid

Oct 12, 2017
Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: What do we know about the origins of life on Earth?

Hello Sun... Say "Ahhhhhhh"

Oct 5, 2017
Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: NASA is preparing to launch a solar probe designed to learn more about the temperature zones of our sun.

NASA / JPL

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Taking steps to protect alien life as we explore the galaxy.

The Cassini Sacrifice

Sep 21, 2017
NASA / JPL

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Why did we crash Cassini into Saturn at the end of it's mission?

Destination Space

Jul 27, 2017

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The promise and potential of space exploration and how it's driving our species forward.

Magnificent Desolation

Jul 20, 2017
NASA

On this episode of Our Island Universe: While our reasons for going to the moon the first time may have been political, our achievement led to much more than bragging rights.

Out of Africa

Jul 13, 2017

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The roots of our need to explore and discover started with our migration out of Africa and our search for new resources.

Born Explorers

Jul 6, 2017

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Evidence that since we arrived on the scene, Homo sapiens have been exploring the world.

TRAPPIST-1 and the Search for Life

Jun 29, 2017
NASA/JPL-Caltech

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 System may lead to identifying another planet that can sustain life.

The Case of the Disappering Star

Jun 22, 2017
NASA, ESA, and C. Kochanek (OSU)

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Scientist may have observed the first evidence of a failed supernova.

The First Woman in Space

Jun 15, 2017
A.Savin / Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: We celebrate Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.  In 1963, on June 16th, over the span of three days, she orbited the earth 48 times.

The Cumberland Gap

Jun 8, 2017
K smith8907 / Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How we can thank a meteor for our pathway to the west.

The Multiverse

Jun 1, 2017

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How can we wrap our minds around the concept of a Multiverse?

Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater

May 25, 2017
USGS

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How a meteor 35 million years ago created the Chesapeake Bay.

Ocean Worlds

May 18, 2017
NASA

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The evidence of life on another world may be closer than you think.

Lucy the White Dwarf

May 11, 2017
NASA, ESA, H. Bond (STScI), and M. Barstow (University of Leicester)

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The ultimate fate of our sun.

Cassini's Swan Song

May 4, 2017
NASA/JPL

On this episode of Our Island Universe: After 13 years surveying Saturn and its moons, the space probe Cassini is entering the final stages of its mission.

Record Setting Astronaut Peggy Whitson

Apr 27, 2017
NASA

On this episode of Our Island Universe: We celebrate NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who now holds the record for time spent in space by an American astronaut. 

Why Science Literacy Matters

Apr 19, 2017

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The state of science literacy today and why it matters to our society as a whole.

What Happened to the Martian Atmosphere?

Apr 13, 2017
NASA / Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Uncovering the clues to the disappearance of the Martian atmosphere.

The Quest to See a Black Hole

Apr 6, 2017
Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Efforts are underway to observe the super-massive black hole at the center of our Galaxy.

Revealing the Unseen

Mar 30, 2017

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How Dr. Andrea Ghez and her team uncovered conclusive evidence of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

The Power of Pulsing Light

Mar 23, 2017
Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How Henrietta Swan Leavitt used her observations of the light intensity of stars to solve the riddle of distance in our universe.

Something's Missing...

Mar 16, 2017
National Science Foundation

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How Vera Rubin discovered Dark Matter.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Little Green Men

Mar 9, 2017
Roger W Haworth / Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: We celebrate Jocelyn Bell Burnell and her discovery of Pulsars.

Cecilia Payne and the Stuff of Stars

Mar 2, 2017
Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How Cecilia Payne's work forever changed our understanding of the inner workings of stars.

Nichelle Nichols

Feb 23, 2017
NASA

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How actress Nichelle Nichols inspired a generation of scientists as Lt. Uhura  on Star Trek and continued to inspire as a recruiter for NASA.

Benjamin Banneker

Feb 16, 2017
Wikipedia Commons - Sarah Stierch (CC BY 4.0)

On this episode of Our Island Universe: We learn a little about Benjamin Banneker, an African-American man who helped survey the Nation's Capital.

Dr. Mae Jemison

Feb 9, 2017
NASA

On this episode of Our Island Universe: We celebrate Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space.

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