Artillery Surveyors Shoot

for the Stars at Planetarium

 

Written by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Published August 4, 2005

   

Spc. Ray Davis studies a scale version of the planets at Clark Planetarium.

Photo by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Spc. Ray Davis studies a scale version of the planets at Clark Planetarium.

 

SALT LAKE CITY — “I see Uranus,” joked Spc. Brad Burton, drawing out the syllables of the third-largest planet in our solar system during a recent visit to Salt Lake City’s Clark Planetarium.

Burton and his fellow students in the second phase of the Field Artillery Surveyors course at the Utah National Guard's  640th Regional Training Institute (RTI) visited the planetarium to see “Night Vision,” a live narrated show that describes what is happening in the current night sky and in the world of astronomy.  

The planetarium visit, an important part of Army Survey courses, taught students how they can identify compass points by using stars in the sky.

Because of the quality of the planetarium, according to instructor Sgt. 1st Class (ret.) Tom Vogan, “Students who come to the 640th RTI have an advantage over students elsewhere in the country.”  Vogan said that Clark Planetarium is excellent resource for students because of its cutting-edge technology and dedicated staff. 

During “Night Vision” students viewed constellations and learned some of the history associated with them. They also learned that the Big Dipper is an asterism and not its own constellation; rather, it is part of Ursa Major, the Big Bear.

More importantly, students learned how to use the Big Dipper to find Polaris and the Little Dipper.  Polaris, or North Star, has been guiding people along their way for thousands of years. 

That night, students and instructors Vogan and Sgt. 1st Class Corry Starr, applied their new knowledge by locating the constellations in the night sky over Riverton, Utah.  The class spent more than 90 minutes learning about the night sky and using the stars to find their way. 

Sgt. 1st Class Corry Starr, right, explains the Foucault pendulum to students to Staff Sgt. Robert Denson, left, and Spc. Brad Burton.

Photo by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Sgt. 1st Class Corry Starr, right, explains the Foucault pendulum to students Staff Sgt. Robert Denson, left, and Spc. Brad Burton. The pendulum was the first real proof that the Earth rotates on its axis.

According to Starr, the planetarium visit is important because “it has the technology to show the grids [Surveyors use] and project them into the night sky.”

The planetarium also has the ability to show all of the constellations regardless of the time of year. 

The show went deeper into the universe than can be seen with either the naked eye or the aid of a telescope.  Students were able to see newly found galaxies and photos from recent Mars expeditions. 

For Private 1st Class Frank Robak that was the best part.  “While studying the stars and what is beyond them you realize how small we are compared to what is out there in our galaxy and beyond,”  he said.