MHCC Planetarium Presents ‘Unstable Stars’ May 6

Posted: April 10, 2014

Although the night sky may appear to be very peaceful, it actually contains stars that can be quite violent. Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) will focus on these “Unstable Stars” during three shows May 6 in the Planetarium Sky Theatre.

Pat Hanrahan, Planetarium director, says, “WR104, a huge, very unstable star, has an axis that is pointed right at Earth. Even at 8,000 light-years away, when it explodes it could have a scary impact for life on Earth. Other attractions include a black hole that is stealing mass from a massive blue star, several stars that have had unexpected eruptions, some that have formed beautiful clouds, and others that are just plain odd!”

egg neb
Like a baby chick pecking its way out of an egg, the star in the center of the Egg Nebula is casting away shells of gas and dust as it slowly transforms itself into a white dwarf star. The Egg Nebula is a rapidly evolving pre-planetary nebula spanning about one light-year toward the constellation of Cygnus.

Credit: NASA Hubble Space Telescope Team

Hanrahan will use the college’s new projection system to locate some of these objects and spotlight the spring sky. He will discuss a new May meteor shower that will result from the pass of a recent comet.

The Planetarium is located on the Gresham Campus beneath the library at 26000 S.E. Stark St. Show times are 6, 7:15 and 8:30 p.m.  Parking on all MHCC campuses is free, no permit required.

Monthly Shows
Hanrahan presents shows the first Tuesday of each month. Visitors are encouraged to ask questions during each 45-minute program. Children are welcome to attend. The Planetarium is wheelchair accessible. Admission for the general public is $2 and free for MHCC students and employees (identification required). Because seating is limited and on a first come, first served basis, early arrival is suggested.

More information about the Planetarium is available at This includes scheduling private daytime shows on Fridays for groups (including clubs, senior groups and classrooms).

Individuals requiring accommodations due to a disability may contact the MHCC Disability Services Office at 503-491-6923 or  Please contact the office at least two weeks prior to the event to ensure availability.

egg neb
WR104, a large, unstable star some 8,000 light-years distant, has thus far remained largely quiescent. It is ripe to undergo a core-collapse supernova of the sort that could generate a seconds-long burst of gamma-rays that, in turn, might potentially wipe out a quarter of Earth’s protective atmospheric ozone. We could see it go supernova anywhere from tomorrow to 500,000 years from now. Unfortunately, the axis of this object is pointed straight at Earth.

Credit: Keck Telescope Team, Hawaii

For more information, media professionals may contact the Office of Community Engagement 503-491-7204 or

© 2014 Mt. Hood Community College | 26000 SE Stark St. | Gresham, OR 97030 | 503-491-6422
 Last Modified: 4/10/2014 10:36:46 AM