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Virani named Star Theater director

Astrophysicist Shanil Virani has been named as the new director of Morehead State's Star Theater and as an instructor of space systems engineering.  

Virani previously worked as director of the John C. Wells Planetarium at James Madison University. He spent more than five years at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as part of the science team of the Chandra X-ray Observatory. He said he's excited to use the Star Theater to motivate more young people to get interested in science.  

"MSU's state-of-the-art Star Theater really brings planetarium astrophysics into the 21st Century with its ability to convey sometimes complicated ideas in a beautiful, elegant, immersive way that gives you the perspective as if you were a time traveler or an astronaut visiting alien worlds," Virani said. "My mission as director of the Star Theater is very straightforward: I seek to inspire and excite the next generation of American scientists and engineers."  

Virani has earned several awards and recognitions throughout his career. He received seven group achievement commendations from NASA and The Smithsonian Institution for his contributions to the mission. In 2009 he was awarded the Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award medal by the American Astronomical Society for exemplary research as a graduate student at Yale University. In 2013, he was appointed a Solar System Ambassador by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Virani has authored or co-authored more than 100 publications in scientific journals and his work is cited more than 3,000 times.   

Also, Virani is creator and host of the podcast "Our Island Universe," a weekly series that looks at all things space and how what goes on "up there" affects our lives "down here."   

MSU's Star Theater hosts a variety of educational and entertainment programming for students, faculty, staff and the entire community. School and group presentations are available. For more information, visit, email or call 606-783-9593.  

For information about programs in MSU's Department of Physics, Earth Sciences and Space Systems Engineering, visit, email or call 606-783-2381.