Planetarium Helps Students to Explore Universe

El Vaquero Staff Writer

The GCC planetarium provides students and individuals with a chance to experience the workings of the solar system up close and personal.

The planetarium, which is located in the CS building, is also set up to be a classroom. Equipped with dry erase boards and desks attached to each of the 48 chairs, it helps teachers educate students on a broader and more three dimensional scale.

Student Arturo Espinoza who is taking astronomy in the planetarium said, “I really like it in there. I’m a visual learner, so it helps me understand the planets and the solar system a whole lot better.”

The astronomy department is not the only one on campus that utilizes the planetarium. Foreign language classes such as German, Spanish and French all come in and watch shows in the languages that the students are learning.

The planetarium is not only open students, but to all other schools. Anyone can call ahead of time and schedule a showing whenever the planetarium has an opening.

Kindergarten through 12th grade students come between Tuesdays through Thursdays, and there is no charge. Currently, people are booking as far ahead as March 2007.

The planetarium also features specialized shows geared toward students of certain ages.

For students in first through third grades there is “Larry Cat in Space.” In this program, students take off on a lunar adventure through a playful and imaginative cartoon presentation about an inquisitive cat who takes a trip to the moon.

For older students and adults the planetarium offers “The Heart of the Sun,” a high-definition, full-dome digital presentation of the sun as it has never been seen.

The planetarium is all digital and full-domed. All shows are presented by a live narrator. “It’s [the planetarium] in the forefront of technology,” said Administrator and Technical Manager Paul Buehler.

Special interest groups such as the Boy Scouts or Brownies can call ahead and schedule shows or give their own visual presentations. Clubs on campus are also free to feature shows in the planetarium. Most recently, the Project Earth Tomorrow club had a two- part showing of Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” to raise awareness about global warming.

“I’ve worked at three other planetaria and this one is the best,” said Jennifer Krestow, Astronomy department head and planetarium education administrator.