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.

Find the John C. Wells Planetarium on Facebook

Follow Shanil Virani on Twitter

Subscribe to podcasts from the John C. Wells Planetarium

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

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.

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.

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