SAN MARCOS — With the Palomar Planetarium’s last show being in March 2020, the staff is happy to announce that they are now open. The planetarium re-opened on September 23, with a one-hour showing of “The Sky Tonight,” a look at constellations, planets, and distant galaxies. The showing of “The Sky Tonight” saw Palomar Planetarium’s director Mark Lane display the planetarium’s new software in a viewing of constellations in the sky. Opening night also included the showing of “Exo,” a film discussing humanity’s search for alien life in the far reaches of the cosmos.
The reason for the planetarium’s delayed re-opening is due to the fact that after not using the equipment for over a year, the previous hardware was no longer working. Thankfully for enjoyers of the planetarium, Palomar College was able to provide $100,000 for a repair and upgrade. With that money, the planetarium got to see the installation of new hardware such as computers and lights. Before renovations began, the planetarium needed eight computers working together to provide a presentation, but according to Planetarium Assistant Director Scott Kardel, it now requires only two.
Another addition was the new software the planetarium now gets to take full advantage of. The Digistar 7 program allows the planetarium staff to take viewers on journeys throughout the galaxy, distant galaxies, and all across the universe. Not only can the new software travel through space but through time as well. With Digistar 7 the planetarium can view the sky from any point in time from any location, allowing the viewers to see constellations from 100 years ago to ten days in the future.
“The hard part about coming back to life was, knowing that we had things that didn’t work and then having to wait for the new systems to come in. Everything wasn’t really in place until about August of this year, and having gone two years of not using the planetarium it was a challenge,” says professor and Assistant Director Scott Kardel on some of the challenges of re-opening the planetarium. “But with this new software, I’m really excited about the planetarium’s new capabilities of rendering things in much greater detail than before. Jupiter looks better than it did, Saturn looks better, the local terrain looks better, and even the sunsets look better.”
The Palomar Planetarium is open to the public every Friday evening for a showing of “The Sky Tonight” and a number of different films that take advantage of the dome screen’s capabilities. The price for general admission tickets is $7, with ticket prices for Palomar College staff and students, children ages 5-12, seniors age 55+, and military being $5. “I hope that students at Palomar remember that we’re here and come in for a show every once in a while,” says Kardel.