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Portable Universe: Dark Skies, Bright Kids Program - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Portable Universe: Dark Skies, Bright Kids Program

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Traveling through the universe is getting easier for students in Albemarle County. A program at the University of Virginia has a new teaching tool to bring the stars much closer to students. It's a state of the art portable planetarium, and it's creating quite the adventure.

Inside is a world normally off limits to mankind. "This is the dome and you can see certainly the sky is becoming dark now so we can start to see some stars," UVA astronomy graduate student David Whelan said.

Students at Red Hill Elementary School are traveling through outer space to moons and planets, through galaxies and constellations.

"I like that you can see all the planets even though like some planets you can't see in real life," 4th grader, Lauren Baylink said.

UVA astronomy professor Kelsey Johnson and a team of student volunteers created a club for elementary schools in rural Albemarle County called "Dark Skies, Bright Kids!" The planetarium is their latest learning tool that can be taken anywhere.

"Our primary goal is to get kids interested, number one, in science but also the universe and to ask questions," Kelsey said.

A trip to the sun or Saturn is now easy thanks to the portable planetarium.

"When you go inside the planetarium, it's as though you're surrounded by the entire sky, you know, 360 degrees around you," Johnson said.

Grants through NASA helped pay for the $50,000 planetarium. It seems it's money well spent when you hear the excitement it creates.

"I think it's really fun and interesting," 5th grader Camden Luck said.

Schools can request Dark Skies, Bright Kids to visit with the planetarium. Click here for more information.

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