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Harry Potter Flies into the Planetarium

Astronomer Charlie Eder explores The Magical Universe of Harry Potter at the Vanderbilt Planetarium
Long Islander photo by Sophia Ricco

(The Long Islander newspaper published this story about the Vanderbilt’s Planetarium event The Magical Universe of Harry Potter on March 21, 2019).

By Sophia Ricco

The Vanderbilt Planetarium solemnly swears they are up to no good, by scheduling their second visit to Hogwarts for April 6.

Wizards are encouraged to wave their wands and get out their quidditch brooms, as they delve into The Magical Universe of Harry Potter. Find a new perspective on the enchanted world created by J.K. Rowling, that takes inspiration from the night’s sky. Vanderbilt Planetarium astronomer Charlie Eder is your Hogwarts professor, as he explores various astronomical references made in the seven Harry Potter books and prepares the class for their Ordinary Wizard Level exam.

“From the bright star Sirius in the constellation Canis Major, known as the Big Dog, to the stars Regulus and Bellatrix, the night sky is filled with your favorite, and least favorite, Harry Potter characters,” Eder said.

With miraculous popularity for the last Magical Universe of Harry Potter on Saturday, March 9, the planetarium was eager to share the wizardry with even more fans. Attendees got in the spirit by dressing in their Hogwarts best, while Eder donned a wizard’s hat and bewitching cape for the live lecture. With the help of the planetarium’s star ball, Eder illuminated various wonders found in the stars from the Witch’s Broom nebula to the constellation Draco the dragon.

“I really enjoyed it, I thought it was great that he attributed the stars to it,” attendee, Lydia Fuchsman said. “I can tell there was a lot of planning to it.”

In preparation for the special evening, Eder rewatched the Harry Potter movie series, finding many cosmic connections. While attending Hogwarts, Harry and his classmates were required to plot the position of celestial bodies on a star map for yearly Ordinary Wizard Level exams.

“I am a pretty big Harry Potter fan, not as big as others, but hopefully everyone who comes tonight will enjoy it,” Eder said.

Get sorted into a Hogwarts’ house and represent Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin, while putting your Harry Potter knowledge to the test by answering trivia questions. The “muggle-friendly” astronomy class will award points to correct houses and prizes are awarded.

“I feel like I learned a lot,” attendee, Jessica Wilmer said. “It’s kind of our thing, Harry Potter, but it was an educational point of view on it, which was really neat. And he got everyone involved through the trivia.”

The Magical Universe of Harry Potter will have an encore on Saturday, April 6, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and showings at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Arrive early to experience spellbinding surprises in the lobby. Tickets: $18 for members, $20 for non-members.

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