PPA GREAT WESTERN OBSERVER Autumn 2020
Exterior of the Marie Drake Planetarium
A True Community Planetarium
For this quarter's president's message I made a virtual visit to Juneau Alaska and the Marie Drake Planetarium. I connected by zoom with the 4 of the 5 volunteer board members that operate the planetarium and do all of the presentations. They have also succeeded in some major fund raising, allowing for a significant planetarium upgrade. What a wonderful, dedicated, enthusiastic group of people! The planetarium is run entirely by volunteers and all shows are free to everyone.
This was the first planetarium in Alaska. It opened in 1967 with a Spitz A3P in a 30 foot dome, at the Marie Drake Junior High school. The school district has gone through changes since then, but still owns the building in which the planetarium is located.
In 1975 the planetarium stopped being used and was mothballed and used as a storage room. Then in 1990 a group of volunteers made a deal with the school district. They cleaned out the room and started giving shows.
They promised the school district that they would oﬀer one free public show per month, and with rare exception, have held to that promise all these many years. In exchange the district maintains the building, pays the electric bill and takes care of
Through the years a very wide variety of live show topics have been presented for public and school groups. Here are just a few that I noticed on their very informative website: Miss Leavitt's Stars Unlock the Universe, Art of the Aurora, the Great American Eclipse, 100 years of General Relativity, Astronaut Humor, The Moon: Facts and Follies, Gravitational Waves, Skywatching and Ancient Calendars, Degenerate Stars, Stephen Hawking's Science, Eclipse Humor, Astrophotography, Exploring Mars, Kid's Day at the Planetarium. The volunteer presenters have been surprised at the public's interest and craving for programs on many rather technical astronomy topics. They also have presented many public shows with kid's interests in mind, and many programs specifically for school groups.
The planetarium is now poised to reopen with a bang once the restrictions are lifted and things can return to normal - it's just a waiting game for now. In the mean time, they would love to engage in some on-line activities with their would-be patrons, but don't know
how to proceed. If anyone has advice or suggestions, they
would love to hear from you.
The newly upgraded planetarium in action.
Photo by Juneau Empire
Planetarium volunteers and supporters at the 2007 4th of July Parade.
Board members (L-R) Stephen Kocsis - Secretary, Cristina Dell Rosa - President, Clark Branch - Treasurer, David Hanson (with dinner) and Rosemary Walling. Photo by Rosemary Walling