Our Island Universe

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

PROGRAM NOTE -- Shanil Virani, host of Our Island Universe, is no longer serving as Director of the JMU John C. Wells Planetarium. As a result, we will be unable to continue the series Our Island Universe.

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 was hosted by Shanil Virani, who at the time was 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. 

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.

Find the John C. Wells Planetarium on Facebook

Hear the podcasts from the John C. Wells Planetarium

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

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.

JWST - The Next Generation Space Telescope

Feb 2, 2017
NASA

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The anticipated launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and the promise of new discoveries. 

Stars and Barns

Jan 26, 2017

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Why we can thank our lucky stars for those iconic red barns.

Beyond the Climate Change Debate

Jan 19, 2017
NASA - Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Looking beyond the Climate Change debate and seeing the science for what it is.

Death by Black Hole

Jan 12, 2017
NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

On this episode of Our Island Universe: What really happens when a Black Hole eats a star?

Galileo and His Telescope

Jan 6, 2017
Michael Dunn / Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: We celebrate Galileo Galilei and his telescope.

Speeding Around the Sun

Dec 30, 2016

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Why are we in the winter season while the Earth is traveling closest to the sun?

Happy Birthday Isaac Newton

Dec 22, 2016

On this episode of Our Island Universe: We celebrate the birth and life of one of our most influential scientists.

Orion Has Real Star Power

Dec 16, 2016
Wikipedia Creative Commmons / ESO/H. Drass et al

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The amazing stellar nursery located just below Orion's belt.

Lucy the White Dwarf

Dec 9, 2016
NASA, ESA, H. Bond (STScI), and M. Barstow (University of Leicester)

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

Star of Bethlehem

Dec 2, 2016
Wikipedia Creative Commmons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Was there really a star of Bethlehem and if so, can we identify it?

Climate Change

Nov 25, 2016
NASA - Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Looking beyond the Climate Change debate and seeing the science for what it is.

A Universal Recipe for Apple Pie

Nov 18, 2016
Neven Mrgan (Flickr)

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How an astrophysicist would go about making an apple pie for Thanksgiving.

The Birth of Robotic Space Exploration

Nov 11, 2016
NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Find out how a Soviet lunar rover kicked off a new era of robotic space exploration.

The Sun

Nov 4, 2016
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How do we know that the sun is made of Hydrogen and Helium?

The Universe is BIG

Oct 28, 2016
NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)

On this episode of Our Island Universe: We contemplate the size of the Universe and the number of galaxies it contains.

The New Race to the Moon

Oct 21, 2016
Wikipedia Creative Commons / 90.5 WESA

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How the Google Lunar X Prize is spurring on new interest and competition to get to the moon.

An Astronomical Halloween

Oct 14, 2016
NASA

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Why we can thank the stars for Halloween.

The Sun = Infinity

Oct 7, 2016
JPL Horizons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The connection between infinity and our Sun.

The Promise of Gravity Waves

Sep 30, 2016
NASA/Ames Research Center/C. Henze

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How gravitational waves have gone from an obscure theory to a new reality with the promise of more to come.

What is Europa Hiding?

Sep 23, 2016
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Europa's hidden ocean.

Exploring Titan

Sep 16, 2016
NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Why Saturn's largest moon, Titan, represents the most interesting place in our solar system.

Sending Off OSIRIS-REx

Sep 9, 2016
NASA

On this episode of Our Island Universe: In the hopes of finding clues to the origins of life in the Universe, NASA targets the asteroid Bennu and sends OSIRIS-REx out for a 7 year round-trip journey.

Voyager 1... Still Going Strong

Sep 2, 2016
Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Voyager 1 and its ongoing journey beyond the edges of our solar system.

The Moon - Our Constant Companion

Aug 26, 2016
Wikipedia Creative Commmons

In this episode of Our Island Universe, we look at the origins of the Moon.

7 Days

Aug 19, 2016

In this episode of Our Island Universe, why are there 7 days in the week?

Dog Days of Summer

Aug 12, 2016
Till Credner via Wikimedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Find out where we got the phrase The Dog Days of Summer

Pages