The stars have yet to align for the Orange Coast College Community Planetarium with the grand opening arriving at a date later than expected due to unexpected weather and changes.

Instead of opening this semester, OCC students can anticipate having a planetarium, as well as classes inside, by the spring semester.

“It is frustrating for a lot of people and I go to all of the construction meetings to keep on top of it and we are really trying to push the job to get it done as soon as possible without cutting corners,” Planetarium Manager Scott Mitchell said. “We could have it open next week if we didn’t mind not having grass or seats.”

A major aspect yet to be added are the seats inside of the theater located within the dome. The immersion dome theater will include about 129 seats that will be able to look up toward the stars, according to Rich Pagel, OCC’s vice president of Administrative Services.

All the interior work will begin on Monday.

Not only will the theater be able to project the dome shows but also be able to hold lectures that require a presentation or a Power Point that need to be displayed on the screen.  

The Planetarium will include features such as a large-scale Foucault pendulum, which demonstrates the earth’s rotation. It will be the first of its kind in Orange County.

“As far as planetariums go in California, this one is going to be on top,” Construction Manager Tom Anderson said.

The plans for the Planetarium include a program for fifth graders in Orange County and partnering with the Orange County Department of Education.

The program will be funded by an outside foundation that is giving the Planetarium $50,000 a year for five years, according to Doug Bennett, executive director of college advancement for OCC. The goal is to have about 20,000 fifth graders visit every year.

“I’m looking forward to opening day and having students and the community coming together,” Pagel said.

According to Pagel, a feature that will be located in the exhibit space of the Planetarium is a sphere that will have a video projection on it and the image will change every minute with a new planet.

The Planetarium is also going to be used for public events, such as marine science or geology shows, but the details are still being worked out.

“Just seeing them close the doors of the Planetarium and it is real quiet and dark with a sound that surrounds you is a unique thing,” Bennett said.

According to Mitchell, he is working with the Astronomy department on how many classes will be held inside when it opens and they are looking to have a full roll out of at least once a week all of the labs will be located in the Planetarium.

“We can get this whole area and be the center of science outreach for all of Orange County,” Mitchell said. “The only planetarium that will be bigger and more advanced is Griffith.”

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