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The old planetarium was located in the Science Quad at Palomar College.  It was built in 1965 through funding from a local bond measure.  Charles Coutts (right) - then Dean of Sciences - was instrumental in creating the concept of a planetarium for Palomar College and pushing for the College to seek funding for it.  The grand opening was on March 22nd 1965.  At the time, it was one of the only planetaria in the California Community College system and for many years it has been the only public planetarium in North County San Diego.  In the first year of operation, more than 10,000 visitors came to view the recreated night time sky in the planetarium.  Since that time nearly a quarter million visitors enjoyed the celestial views and educational shows that the planetarium had offered.

After 43 years of operation, this planetarium closed following the conclusion of the Spring 2008 semester.  The Science Quad has been demolished to make way for new campus construction and a new planetarium has been built in a different location on Campus.

(click on the thumbnail for a larger image) Inside the planetarium, the lobby displayed current astronomical images from the Hubble Space Telescope and other large ground based telescopes.  A ticket booth at one entrance allowed patrons to purchase tickets for the evening shows.  Visitors could see displays of astronomical hardware, celestial globes, a sample tile from the Space Shuttle, and more as they passed through the lobby on their way to the planetarium theater.
The planetarium theater seated 76 visitors in a concentric seating arrangement.  The celestial displays were projected onto a 30-foot aluminum dome.  Surrounding the dome were 18 slide projectors that could display a variety of astronomical images that would provide much of the imagery for the many educational shows offered at the planetarium.  A stereo sound system was hidden behind the dome and provided rich sounding music to accompany the presentation.
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The original projection system was a Spitz A3-P (shown to the left).  Considered state of the art in its day, this projector would simulate the night sky by projecting light through hundreds of small holes in a large star ball (seen in the image to the left).  The sky could turn and the observer's latitude could change through the controls located on a console.

In the summer of 2000, the planetarium projection system was upgraded to a modern digital projection system called a Digistar II (seen to the right).  This new system had no moving parts and digitally projected the image of the night sky onto the dome.  Driven by a computer graphics system, the Digistar II would take the audience on virtual journeys that moved in 3-dimensions.  The sky could be displayed for anywhere on Earth, and show the stars at anytime in the past or future.
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The console area (shown to the left) was where the planetarium operator controlled the audio and visual systems that were used during a presentation.  Originally this was done by manually turning knobs and pushing buttons while the operator spoke to the crowd through a microphone.  In a modern planetarium, much of the display is programmed ahead of time and runs through an automated system that is coordinated through a series of computers and is accompanied by music.  For live presentations, the host still uses a microphone system to narrate about the display.

The rooftop of the old Earth Sciences building had two observatory domes.  The west dome housed a Celestron C-14 telescope (shown at the right) and the east dome contained a 4.5 inch Unitron refractor (far right).  Several other portable telescopes were housed in the east dome.  Guests who came to the planetarium show were treated to real-time views of celestial objects currently visible in the night sky.

For 43 years the old planetarium hosted nearly 200,000 local area school children as they learned about astronomy in their K-12 classes.  Dozens of schools - both public and private - have included a visit to the planetarium as part of their K-12 science curriculum.  Initially free of charge, Proposition 13 in 1978 forced the College to begin charging a small fee at the door to help offset the costs of running the planetarium.  For a few dollars each, the students got to spend an hour in the planetarium learning about the stars, the solar system, or the basics of the night sky.  This program has proven to be very successful over the years.  The new planetarium continues this tradition of hosting local area school children and will continue to do so for many years to come.  

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