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

Happy Birthday Copernicus

Feb 19, 2016

On this episode of Our Island Universe: We celebrate the legacy of renaissance mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.

Gravitational Waves

Feb 12, 2016
R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL

 On this episode of Our Island Universe: Gravitational Waves... it's a game changer!

Climate Change

Feb 5, 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.

Groundhog Day

Jan 29, 2016
Anthony Quintano, Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: Why do we use a groundhog to predict the length of winter?

Planet 9!?

Jan 22, 2016
Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How did we discover a new planet in our solar system and what does this mean?

How Did Our Planets Form?

Jan 15, 2016

On this episode of Our Island Universe: What we know about how the planets in our solar system formed and why some are gas giants or ice giants.

Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: When did life begin on Earth?

When We Are Closest to the Sun

Jan 1, 2016

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How can it be winter when at this time of year, we are also closest to the sun?

Star of Bethlehem

Dec 25, 2015
Wikipedia Creative Commmons

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

Winter Solstice

Dec 18, 2015

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The winter solstice and promise of longer days and shorter nights.

The Theory of Everything

Dec 11, 2015
Wikipedia Commons

On this episode of Our Island Universe: The hunt for the holy grail of a unified theory of everything.

Monsters in the Dark

Dec 4, 2015
Wikipedia Commons

  On this episode of Our Island Universe: The dark mystery that lurks at the center of our Galaxy.

Making an Apple Pie From Scratch

Nov 20, 2015
Neven Mrgan (Flickr)

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

Evidence for a Big Bang

Nov 13, 2015

On this episode of Our Island Universe: How do we know that the Universe is expanding and started with a Big Bang?

The Accelerating Universe

Nov 6, 2015

On this episode of Our Island Universe: You may already know that the universe is expanding, but did you know that it is accelerating?

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