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Chemeketa’s planetarium offers a glimpse at the creation of the modern telescope

The stars and night sky have always been a fascination of mankind; a source of wonder and mystery, a way to tell our stories and navigate. If you have ever wondered how we came to know what we do about those blinking lights in the sky, or how those early astronomers figured out how to get closer without even leaving the ground, the current film showing at the planetarium may spike your interest.

One of the projectors used to display the stars on the Planetarium dome. Photo by Caleb Wolf.

The Astronomy Program faculty is hosting a presentation of the 2016 astronomy film Two Small Pieces of Glass: The Amazing Telescope produced by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Supernova Planetarium. The film is about two students attending a star-viewing party hosted by their astronomy teacher and follows them as the kids learn about how the modern types of telescopes came to be. It covers the progress science has made since the invention of the telescope, which led to Galileo’s modification of a children’s spyglass that allowed him to observe celestial objects, and how all of this impacted and led to the creation of the NASA Hubble telescope.

Before the film even starts, the audience tours the stars in the Oregon night sky via two types of projectors in the planetarium. During this segment, the lights fade to a controlled red hue, then to almost complete darkness as Chemeketa astronomy instructors provide a fascinating crash course on planetary positioning and the history of the namings of the stars above. This presentation discusses the zodiac and why constellations have Greek names while stars often have Arabic names. This does require quite a bit of looking up and neck craning, and it’s advisable to sit on the outer edges of the theatre in order to properly see all of the display. It should also be noted that the space is quite small, only seating 60 people at a time, causing a line to form outside the viewing.

The entire presentation lasts a little over an hour, starting with the introduction and tour of the sky and ending with the feature film and a Q&A. There are two telescopes that the audience is welcome to look at, though there aren’t any stars to see with them.

Presentations of “Two Small Pieces Of Glass: The Amazing Telescope” take place every Friday at 7:30 p.m. through June 8 in Bldg. 2, Rm. 171. Admission is $5.00 for adults and $4.00 for Chemeketa students and children. Cash only.

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