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Palomar College breaks ground for new planetarium

SAN MARCOS – Palomar College broke ground for a new planetarium on Wednesday, May 26 at 1 p.m. at the San Marcos campus.

Funded by monies from Proposition M, which was approved by voters in November 2006, the $6.9 million planetarium will feature a 50-foot dome and will seat 146 people. According to Planetarium Director Mark Lane, visitors will experience “immersive technology” in the planetarium shows, which will give viewers the impression that they are inside the scene, for example as if they are sitting on the surface of Mars.

The new planetarium replaces the original Palomar College planetarium which was built in the mid-1960s and was removed as part of the construction plan resulting from the passage of Proposition M. In addition to the planetarium, which is expected to be completed in late 2011, other new buildings are in the works for the college’s San Marcos campus, including the Health Sciences Building, which will be open for fall 2010 classes, the Multidisciplinary Building, which is expected to be open for classes in spring 2011, and the Industrial Technology Center, with anticipated completion in fall 2011.

Lane said that astronomy classes are popular at the college, with about 2,000 students enrolled in them each year. The new planetarium will also provide weekly shows for the community, and for local schoolchildren on field trips. According to Lane, approximately 5,000 children attended shows each year at the previous planetarium.

Palomar College President Bob Deegan officiated at the groundbreaking event, which was attended by college officials, special guests and teachers and students of the third grade class from Lilac Elementary School and Pauma Valley Elementary School in Valley Center. Comments were made by the president of the governing board, Dr. Michele Nelson; the assistant superintendent/vice president for finance and administrative services, Dr. Bonnie Dowd; and the president of the associated student government, Channing Shattuck.

Speakers also included Lane, and Jim Pesavento, professor of astronomy and geology.

 

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