The shows are out of this world

Feb 5th, 2014 | By | Category: Spotlight

Pierce College’s Science Dome, located on the Fort Steilacoom campus in Lakewood, offers visitors the show of a lifetime for the price of a latte.

Hillary Stephens, associate professor of physics and astronomy and the dome’s coordinator, explained that the first half-hour of the show could consist of a tour of that night’s sky, or it could cover things like black holes.

The digital planetarium allows visitors to go just about anywhere in the known universe, she said.

“You are sitting underneath and we can project whatever we want up there,” she said. “If you can put it on a computer screen, we can put it on the dome. We can simulate the night sky or the view out of a space ship.”

The presenters are either college students or staff, and they put the content together. Stephens said everyone is extremely excited to offer the public such a rare view of the universe.

After the presentations, there is a half-hour dome video. “You feel like you are flying through space in your chair,” said Stephens.

The three public shows each week run at 7 p.m. on Friday and 2 and 3:15 in the afternoon on Saturdays. The 2 o’clock show is geared toward children ages 3 to 8 years old, and Stephens said a lot of grandparents bring their grandchildren to that presentation.

During the 2 p.m. show, there is an open space in the front of the auditorium for the children to sit on the floor. “The presenter has hands-on activities for them to do,” Stephens said, adding that an upcoming presentation, titled “Comets, Asteroids and Meteors, Oh My,” is guaranteed to thrill. Adults attending the 2 p.m. Saturday show with children are admitted free, and the show lasts 45 minutes. Prices for the other shows are $3 for children up to 18 and $6 for adults.

Hall lights are left on for the 2 o’clock show for any children who might become uncomfortable in the dark.

The planetarium’s goal, said Stephens, is to be used for classes, but also to reach out to the public by “bringing science to the community and having them get interested in it and learn.”

Since the programs repeat every five weeks, visitors are encouraged to return to the planetarium often to see a new show.

Stephens teaches classes on astrobiology at Pierce College. She said her high school physics and astronomy teacher sparked her interest in the field.

“I think one of the things that has always captured me is the idea that there is just so much out there that we don’t know, and being part of discovering that is awesome,” she said.

The planetarium will hold another public event on March 14 called “Pi Day,” said Stephens.

The Fort Steilacoom campus is at 9401 Farwest Dr. More information about the planetarium can be found at piercecollegedome.com.

Hillary Stephens, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, is among presenters at Science Dome shows. “We can simulate the night sky or the view out of a space ship,” she said. (Pierce College/courtesy photo)

Hillary Stephens, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, is among presenters at Science Dome shows. “We can simulate the night sky or the view out of a space ship,” she said. (Pierce College/courtesy photo)

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