By Konstantine Fekos
Area residents and Edinboro University students can once again stargaze where there is never a cloud in the sky and the temperature is always just right.
The newly refurbished Edinboro University Planetarium unveiled its first public show of 2013 in the Cooper Science Hall Tuesday evening after several years of renovations.
Dr. David Hurd, planetarium director and professor of geosciences, treated prospective and current students as well as the general public to an informative look at the night sky with the same star projector used since 1968.
The star projector remains the only throwback, as the inside of the planetarium’s interior was refurbished with cosmic-themed carpeting and a fresh coat of paint through the duration of the Cooper Science Hall renovations, which saw the planetarium’s closure for upwards of four years in addition to the installation of its surrounding museum area.
The planetarium hadn’t seen a change in lighting in more than 40 years, according to Hurd. Now it boasts a brand new lighting system with programmable, multi-color capabilities.
“It’s really exciting to see the general public getting involved and learning,” Hurd said. “That’s our bread and butter.”
More than 100 people attended the planetarium’s grand opening, many of which expressed their excitement after years of waiting to see another show.
“One thing we’re big on here is community,” said Dan Hooven, graduate assistant. “We offer free family shows and tours for field trips.”
While open to guests of all ages, the planetarium is most popular with students from kindergarten to high school in the tri-county area, gaining renown as far out as western New York and northeastern Ohio.
“Most of the time we have elementary kids who we love to teach,” said Bryan Theriot, junior biochemistry major. “The planetarium is great; I love what they did with the new place.”
That’s not to discredit the planetarium’s on-campus popularity. Students like junior journalism major Bryan Baumgartner walked out of the grand opening impressed.
“It’s definitely an interesting event offered here on campus,” he said. “I’d recommend it to anyone.”
Hurd and other department members also hope to rally current and prospective students around science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields as well as Edinboro’s presence therein.
“If you’re part of an education group and you’re interested in coming up, let us know,” Hooven said. “It’s a good resource. We just want it used.”
Having seen conventional stargazing go largely wayward as a result of light pollution, Hurd is working to keep the interest of space and geosciences alive through the planetarium and upcoming Cooper Hall Museum, what he hopes will stand as a solid example of the university’s cutting edge research.
“Great things really do happen here,” he said, looking forward to the mostly-finished museum’s official unveiling, expected later this fall. “We have phenomenal and world-renowned professors here who are quality educators and quality scientists.”
Their collective research can be found on display in the museum along with a myriad of historical items and artifacts, many of them locally based, dedicated to geoscience, biology, physics and chemistry.
Petrified wood, various styles of quartz, taxidermy of extinct animals and fossils from northwestern Pennsylvania are just a few of the items Cooper Hall proudly displays.
“We not only define minerals, we offer local paleogeography and give people a look at what this area was like millions of years ago,” said Brittney Oleniacz, senior geoscience and biology major and lab assistant. “We’re really anxious to get everything ready and open to the public.”
Oleniacz led the public on informational tours of the museum’s finished areas, noting several items are more than 100 years old while some reach back further into primitive millenia.
Faculty members actively sought certain display items while most of the collection was donated by research groups and other museums, she added.
The planetarium, museum and observatory are expected to form a trifecta of interest and knowledge once all renovations and finishing touches are complete, according to Hurd.
“We’re looking forward to coupling evening public shows with a look in the observatory on clear nights,” he said.
Hurd is also excited to present the next round of public shows, entitled “Legends of the Night Sky,” which will focus on the mythological creatures found in popular constellations.
“This is sort of a one-two combo for visiting groups,” Hooven said. “See the museum, see a planetarium show. It’s a good time.”
Edinboro University Planetarium events are free and open to the public with reservations.
For a schedule of public events or to reserve a seat, visit edinboro.edu and search keyword “planetarium.”
You can go
Edinboro Unversity Planetarium presents Legends of the Night Sky: Laser Show on April 16 from 7 to 8 p.m. in room 161 of the Cooper Science Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.