GCC Students See Stars

El Vaquero Staff Writer

If you are a GCC student or just passing Glendale Avenue it is impossible to not notice the colorful planetarium dome bursting above the campus. The Astronomy Department invited students and faculty to their first opportunity to view the 30-foot dome in ” The New Planetarium Show ” on Sept. 19.

The seven-year process started when the decision to construct a planetarium was made in 1996. By 2002 GCC had chosen SkySkan to create the projection system by which the planetarium shows would be displayed.
Professor of Chemistry David Hurst, said, “The response of students and faculty has been, initially, ‘Wow what a great classroom! Then, ‘this place has amazing possibilities.’

Unlike traditional planetariums that project stars onto the dome, the GCC digital planetarium includes a bank of computers that control the star data and a system of three-color projectors that puts the image on the dome.

“In the Astronomy classes, the planetarium makes it possible to add a whole new level of reality to ideas about phases of the moon, constellations, the motions of planets and stars.”

With the digital planetarium students can observe the sky as it was seen by Columbus in 1492 or the future position of the start at the time of an eclipse in 2020.

Hurst said, ” The planetarium is a powerful teaching tool. I like to call it ‘a weapon of mass instruction.’ It is also a compelling, state-of-the-art way to display images and movies. Being in a planetarium can be a very moving experience. It can put you close to the rings of Saturn, surround you with a crystal clear star field or dazzle you with a swirling collection of galaxies.”

While the planetarium is only being used during Astronomy lectures, the Astronomy Department plans to launch a pilot program to offer shows to K-12 students in the 2004 spring semester.

“GCC has a planetarium because we have had support from the federal government, the GCC Administration, GCC Foundation and individual donors,” Hurst said. ” There really are some amazing possibilities for using the planetarium in projects like interdisciplinary presentations or for outreach programs.”