The 4th annual Astronomy Slam! event took place on Saturday, November 4, 2023 at the Charles W. Brown Planetarium. During this event, students use planetarium visual effects to creatively present an astronomical topic of their choosing to a public audience. The presenters compete for the audience’s vote to win the title of astronomy slam champion.

This year’s presentation subjects included constellations, auroras, Harry Potter, exoplanets, and black holes. In order to compete, students, from any major at Ball State, must pick a topic, research it, draft an outline, write a script, create their presentation, and coordinate with the planetarium director, Dayna Thompson.

Hailey Sebring, a freshman pursuing a bachelor’s degree in physics and pre-engineering, delivered the first presentation of the evening on constellations and auroras.

Want to delve deep into the night sky? Specifically, the constellations that we see every night (if it’s not cloudy, of course) or northern lights if you go north enough? Well, join me in the first performance of the night to not only understand what they are, but the introduce their history in formations. Don’t fall asleep in the dark, or you’ll miss all the stars!

Returning Astronomy Slam competitor Caleb Whitcomb is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in physics. His presentation, “Revelio Astra: The Astronomy of Harry Potter,” examined the celestial namesakes of several characters from the popular series.

Harry Potter books have enthralled many people around the world with interesting characters, many of whom have names that come from ancient and mythological sources. Here we will explore characters whose names come from our very own night Sky and see some of the objects that call these parts of the sky home.


One of the presenters does not come from an academic background in astronomy. Cole Grimes is undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in legal studies, but still shares a passion for the cosmos with his fellow presenters. His presentation, “Beyond our blue dot: navigating the Exoplanetary frontier” analyzed the science of exoplanets.

In this presentation, we embark on a journey beyond our beloved earth, to explore the intriguing world of exoplanets. We’ll delve into the diverse conditions of these distant celestial bodies focusing on two remarkable examples, Kepler 22B and Proxima Centauri B. We’ll also take a fascinating detour into the depths of the early universe, unraveling the awe-inspiring and sometimes perplexing scientific phenomena and events that defined this ancient epoch.

Mya Shelton, a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in astronomy, captured the audience in the gravitational pull of her presentation: “Black holes and why they don’t actually suck.”

What is a black hole? Are they actual holes in space that are black? Are they invisible? Let’s traverse through the galaxy and figure out what’s really going on out there.

These four contestants compete for the titles of Best Overall, Best Energy, Most Visually Engaging, and Most Thought-Provoking. The audience crowned Mya this year’s Astronomy Slam champion. Her awe-inspiring presentation explained the mystery and science behind black holes and the role they play in the universe.


“I really like the mystery of supermassive black holes,” Mya said. “The fact that we don’t know exactly how they’re formed, and the fact that stuff can go in, but it doesn’t come out.”

Mya said her interest in the stars came from an experience as a child, looking at the night sky from her darkened bedroom and noticing a group of stars that appeared to form a smiley face. The constellation awakened in her an interest in the night sky and an appreciation of its beauty that inspires her to this day.

She plans to study astronomy in graduate school and become an astronomer.

Inspired to catch a show? Check out the Brown Planetarium’s upcoming shows, all free and open to the public. Or read more about our out-of-this-world physics and astronomy students.