When the Palomar College planetarium opens its new state-of-the-art home on the San Marcos campus, it will continue the legacy of introducing and educating visitors on the science of the universe.
The general public opening of the planetarium will be at 7 p.m. on April 20. The Palomar planetarium celebrated the ribbon cutting of the new structure on March 9 — 47 years after the original planetarium opened in March 1965.
“The new, state-of-the-art venue and presentation technology will make astronomy come alive in a way that the old planetarium was unable to do,” said Mark Lane, Palomar associate professor and planetarium director. “The new planetarium will allow students to see the various concepts of astronomy in a way that is realistic and dynamic.”
It will provide students and guests with a 100 percent digital reproduction of the universe. This is done with a Digistar 4 projection system that creates real-time renderings that are calculated and drawn. The scale distances and orientations of the universe are displayed on the 50-foot Astrotec dome. This visual and audio technology allows the audience to feel like they are orbiting through space. The experience educates and entertains at the same time, he said.
The architecture of the structure’s exterior is showcased with the stainless steel, chemically treated, colored roof tiles that appear slightly different depending on the angle of the sun.
The new freestanding planetarium is the fifth largest in California and can seat 142 in the theater.
The cost of the new planetarium was $8.5 million and funded as part of Proposition M, a bond that was passed in 2006.
“This magnificent structure is not just a classroom facility for Palomar students,” said Palomar governing board member Darrell L. McMullen. “It is to be experienced by every young student in San Diego County as they come by the busloads.”
In addition to being an integral part of astronomy courses for Palomar students, it hosted 200,000 area K-12 school children as part of their science curriculum over the 43 years it was open. Groups of students came from as far as Orange County, Borrego Springs and Chula Vista.
The planetarium brought local school-aged groups, as a field trip for the third and fourth graders to fulfill the astronomy requirement in their science curriculum. The planetarium is open to the general public in addition to the 100 schools that have contracts with the planetarium.
The general admission cost is $7 and discounted rates of $5 will be offered to students, military and seniors. Parking for the Friday evening shows is free in Lot 5 with arrangement through Campus Police. The ticket booth is open from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and tickets are sold on a first-come first-served basis.
For additional information, visit http://www.palomar.edu/planetarium/