By Hayley Hart/Online Editor/@hayleylhart
Photo By Darrell James/Photo Editor/@darrelljames_
The planetarium in the D Building of LBCC’s LAC is set to receive a new $213,000 projector potentially as soon as the Summer with free shows open to the public in the Fall.
A planetarium is a projection of the virtual sky or other images on a domed ceiling and an observatory has a telescope that can be moved around to view the real sky. The projector being used now only shows half the sky when it is working.
Ruben Luevano, 19, a chemical engineering major, said, “The textbook only shows so much. (The planetarium) is the best middle ground.”
Astronomy teacher Amy Fredericks, the only full-time teacher in the department, is guiding a class for the first time in her career in a planetarium. Fredericks uses the half-working projection to show PowerPoints and the science program “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” with Neil DeGrass-Tyson.
Fredericks said, “I’ve always been interested in astronomy since I was preschool age. I would draw the planets with crayons. I knew there was one with the letter N and another that started with U. I don’t know where I got the information from.”
In May 2015, the planetarium conducted six free shows back-to-back on Science Day. Fredericks said all the shows were full to nearly full.
According to an email from associate director of public relations and marketing for LBCC, Stacey Toda, School of Health and Science Dean Paul Creason said, “The planetarium is a model for Community Colleges. The facility in the D Building is one of the nicest in the state. The replacement of the projector is critical to maintain the quality of the instruction and provide the best student experience in astronomy classes.”
Fredericks said the department has started the process of purchasing the new projector and the goal is to have it installed before classes begin this Summer.
Toda, in an email, said money for the projector is from the capital outlay budget, which is money given to all Community Colleges to be used for maintenance, renewing or expanding facilities for the benefit of students. Toda said astronomy is a popular discipline with 1,400 students in astronomy classes each year.
Fredericks has been teaching at LBCC for two years and has worked at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. among other locations.
She received her master’s in astronomy from the University of Maryland in 1999 and did her undergraduate work at USC with a full scholarship.