Former planetarium director Keith Johnson stands with students inside the Edelman planetarium. -Photo courtesy of Rowan University, provided by Keith Johnson

At some point or another, we have all been interested in space. Whether we wanted to be an astronaut when we were children or just think stars are cool, space has been a source of inspiration and intrigue for people of all ages.

For the Rowan community, space is within reach at the Jean and Ric Edelman Planetarium, which is located in Science Hall. Established in 2003 when the building was built, the planetarium hosts several different types of events, the most expected of which are the planetarium shows.

These shows, which are presented every Saturday and Sunday, involve a digital display of the night sky at the time of the show. They also include a video, which isn’t necessarily space-themed but caters to several science topics, such as biology. These videos are displayed across the entire dome screen ceiling of the planetarium, which makes for an immersive learning experience.

The Edelman Planetarium also has open houses once a month, weather permitting. These events involve a show in the planetarium itself as well as a chance for visitors to go to the observatory on the fourth floor.

One of the other major events that the planetarium does is its series of laser light shows. Each show is different and is an alternative use of the planetarium beside science, as many of the shows are themed for the time of year or based on different music artists, like Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson and Queen. Laser light shows are on Fridays and Saturdays.

There are also family laser light shows that are shown on Sundays. Though all of the shows the planetarium displays are for general audiences, the family shows are geared more toward children in the 5 to 10-year-old range.

All of the above options are open to anyone and everyone, whether they’re a Rowan student, part of the Rowan community, or anyone else who wants to have fun for little to no cost. However, the planetarium also provides completely free field trips, which are open to any school groups that are interested.

The Edelman Planetarium in Science Hall. – Editor-in-Chief / Miguel Matinez.

The programs presented by the Edelman Planetarium are run by student workers at the planetarium. Though most of these students are physics majors, or at least have majors within the science realm, job positions aren’t exclusive to those students. Anyone with an interest and some knowledge of astronomy is welcome to work at the planetarium.

These students are managed by the planetarium’s director, Amy Barraclough. Since becoming the director in 2016, Barraclough has expanded and diversified the programs provided at the planetarium. This has included not only increasing the number of shows run on a typical weekend (from one to the now seven shows hosted), but also in expanding the uses of the planetarium.

One recent use of the planetarium included the creation of a show through a collaboration with the radio, television and film department to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Glassboro Summit during the Cold War.

The show talked about a solar flare that occurred one month before the summit that almost started World War III. The flare knocked out the U.S. early warning system, which was meant to detect nuclear warheads. Since the flare disrupted the system’s function, the U.S. began to prepare for war against the USSR until a group of scientists pointed out that it was just a solar flare.

There are a variety of uses for the planetarium, from space to science to just-for-fun, and through all of them, there’s one key role that Barraclough wants the planetarium to fulfill within the Rowan community.

“I think that it’s important that we’re here and able to explain whenever people see or hear something that maybe didn’t get portrayed right or that they don’t quite understand about space or astronomy,” Barraclough said. “They can come to us and we can help put that into perspective or try to correct any misinformation that they might have received.”

As for the future of the planetarium, Barraclough plans to further expand its programs by increasing the number of summer camps for middle-schoolers and offering birthday party packages for kids. She also has a script for a “Harry Potter” stargazing show in the works, which she hopes to premiere toward the end of July.

The planetarium is hosting its next open house on Nov. 4, depending on the weather. There will also be a viewing of Mercury’s transit across the sun, which only happens about 13 times within a 100-year span, on Meditation Walk on Nov. 11 at 9:30 a.m.

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