Orange Coast College Planetarium looks to the stars to celebrate its anniversary
Orange Coast College celebrates the third anniversary of its planetarium this month, although due to the pandemic it has essentially only been open for about a year since its debut in 2019.
“We barely had a good year of operation before closing,” said planetarium director Scott Mitchell. “During the first year, a year and a half of COVID, we were really limited in what we could do. We did virtual field trips with the Orange County Department of Education and then only online content, but we really took a step back from what we could do before.
The planetarium had to halt indoor shows and tours as the global health crisis began to unfold in the spring of 2020. Mitchell said he had been in the same boat as many others who thought they could reopen soon. time after which was to be a temporary closure.
“The target reopening date has been steadily pushed back. I remember thinking it would be in April. Then it was June, then it would be September,” Mitchell said. “Finally, it was the spring of 2022.”
The planetarium has been back in business for the past few weeks with a handful of smaller events for kids, but will officially reopen on Saturday, March 19.
The festivities are expected to begin at 11 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m. Activities and demonstrations will be presented on the Costa Mesa campus and a workshop led by fashion designer Paul Frank is planned. The first 100 participants will receive a free souvenir button. Admission to the shows will be free, but there will be a $25 fee to attend Frank’s Workshop.
Additionally, the planetarium will unveil its meteorite exhibit, which includes about 20 specimens from the asteroid belt, the moon, and, Mitchell hopes, Mars.
“We’ve been floating the idea of making meteorites for a long time,” Mitchell said. “We had a very, very generous donor lending us his samples. But once we had a clearer picture of when the planetarium was going to be able to open, we really started designing the exhibit, fleshing out what we were teaching like solar system formation…and planetary formation. It really fell into place over the past two weeks.
The meteor exhibit is temporary and is only expected to last about a year, with the next exhibit expected to focus on the astronomical and aerospace industry in California.
“With COVID rates and everything going down, we’re pretty confident we can keep it open this time around. We definitely missed having people in the building and being able to share astronomy with the community.
“We can’t wait to have people here,” he said.
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