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Observatory and planetarium open to the public

McInnis Learning Center holds state-of-the-art equipment that rivals what is available to students at Ivy League schools. The Julia Fowler Planetarium, located on the third floor, is a digital planetarium with a SciDome projector. An additional set of stairs leads to the Bradstreet Observatory with two 16-inch diameter Meade LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes and a control room, which are used for research as well as for teaching.

“No school this size has facilities like this,” said Dr. David Bradstreet, observatory and planetarium director and professor of astronomy and physics. “Yale just put in a planetarium like ours.”

Every Tuesday evening, from about 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., community members or students are permitted to climb the flight of stairs to the observatory, with Observatory Administrator Steve Sanders as their guide. In a group of no more than 15 people, they have the opportunity to view two or three different objects through the telescope and to take pictures of the objects they see. Sanders emails the images to the guests afterwards so that they can keep their photos. During the evening, the tour may also include the planetarium. But if it is a clear night, Bradstreet said, most of the time is spent at the telescope. The public observation nights are so popular that they can be booked almost two or three months in advance.

“Where else can you go that you can not only look through the telescope but also take pictures?” Bradstreet said. “I do it because I think it’s important for Eastern to give back to the community in every way we can.”

The public can also experience the planetarium during one of its productions, such as Astronaut or The Star of Bethlehem. Astronaut was shown for three weekends from September to October. For Homecoming weekend, it was presented on Friday night and five times on Saturday. The Star of Bethlehem has been a favorite since 1972. “Hundreds and hundreds of people from the outside come,” Bradstreet said. “It’s very popular.”

Last year, the Christmas production was shown a total of 20 times. Reservations must be made early to ensure a seat.

To reserve your place for a public observing night, email Steve Sanders at ssander2@eastern.edu or call 610-341-1390.

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