Orange Coast College prepares to officially open its $25 million Planetarium on Saturday after over two and a half years of construction and 10 years of planning.

OCC Interim President Kevin Ballinger said the new Planetarium replaces the college’s original facility that was built in 1959 and fell into disrepair. That structure had 50 seats and a small dome, compared with 125 seats in the new building.

“We outgrew it,” Ballinger said.

The new Planetarium was more than 10 years in the making, with eight spent planning, designing and finding funding for the facility and the last two and a half dedicated to the construction.

Most of the funding for the Planetarium was provided by the Measure M bond fund supported by the community.  

“The design was made to resemble our universe when looked at from the sky down,” Scott Mitchell, Planetarium manager said.

The Planetarium will benefit OCC students, the local community, surrounding K-12 schools and all who are curious.

Before entering the 50-foot blue bubble dome theatre, visitors are guided toward the SOS Explorer, a row of screens and stands of iPads where they gain a more personalized teaching of the weather, sea currents, the moon, patterns of global air traffic and tracking migrations of birds and more.

In addition, the OCC’s Planetarium isn’t limited to those studying astronomy.

“The ocean is the closest we get to another world and the closest [to] aliens we will ever see,” Rose Nhem, a biology with a marine emphasis student and Planetarium employee said.

Every show shown in the Planetarium will end with a real time live view of the stars in the sky of that night.

Entrance to the lobby is free and tickets for the shows are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, veterans, and children under 12, and OCC students are admitted free with their student ID.

Orange Coast College’s Planetarium dedication to the community will be held Friday at 4 p.m.    

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