The reopening of California State University Northridge’s planetarium offers visitors a chance to look up at the stars and track the constellations, something not everyone can do in a big city like Los Angeles.
This February, the university’s Donald E. Bianchi Planetarium is again hosting star shows for the public for the first time since the COVD-19 pandemic closed the program in 2020. CSUN’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is hosting shows on Fridays this month, on Feb. 9, Feb. 16 and Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
Debbie Klevens in the Department of Physics and Astronomy said anyone familiar with previous shows will notice some changes in the new offerings.
“They’re using all the same equipment, it’s just that the hosts are different,” Klevens said. “It’s more refined. The host has a bright personality, so she gets everybody going and excited about the show.”
“Star Shows” offers a basic introduction to the stars, providing a tour of where familiar stars are located, as well as a look at some interesting constellations.
The show includes overlay projections of famous constellations and a discussion about the historical lore surrounding those constellations, including stories that have been passed down through generations originating with tales from ancient Greece. The show also offers information about the planets and their annual motions, sharing insights on how to find stars, constellations and planets in the night sky.
“The projector that we have is a Spitz 512 Star Projector,” said Tanner Rosenberg, an instructional support technician in the physics and astronomy department. “It’s totally analog. There’s a bulb in the center of a big ball that projects stars onto our 40-foot Dome.
“It can do more than just show the stars,” Rosenberg continued. “It can show some of the coordinate systems we use in the sky, the path the sun takes, how the planets and sun move throughout the year and how the stars move throughout the day and night, providing a visual perspective of what the sky would look like from different points on the Earth.”
The Department of Physics and Astronomy is hosting its grand reopening shows this month, but is also offering the planetarium doors for education purposes. Department officials hope that CSUN students, along with members of the greater community, will use the planetarium as a resource, and are inviting private groups or schools to book appointments to view planetarium shows free of charge.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t get to go to a planetarium show,” said Rosenberg. “I got to go to science museums and things like that though, and that was really inspirational for me to see. We’d like the planetarium to bring in community members and inspire them.”
Admission for the February shows is free. Doors open 15 minutes before the show and seating is limited.
Those interested in scheduling a group visit, email email@example.com or check the planetarium’s website for more information. A list of the planetarium’s shows can also be found on that website.