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Stargazing at the Scobee Planetarium

 
Stargazing at the Scobee Planetarium
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ If the sky is clear after the Friday evening programs, visitors can view the moon and stars through the telescope in the Scobee Planetarium’s Star Tower, nicknamed “The Raspa.”

It started as a typical love story two teenagers, a warm October night in San Antonio, and a sky full of stars. She was 16 and he was 19, and an airman stationed at Kelly Air Force Base. After a very short courtship, they married and had two children but their lives were far from ordinary. Both attended San Antonio College.

Dick remained in the military, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona in 1966, and served as a combat aviator in the Vietnam War. He logged more than 6,500 hours of flying time in 45 different types of aircraft. He attained the rank of lieutenant colonel and was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1978. On Jan. 28, 1986, Lt. Col. Francis “Dick” Scobee was the commander of the ill-fated Challenger spacecraft.

It was no surprise that in 1994, San Antonio College dedicated and renamed its planetarium to honor Lt. Col. Dick Scobee. In 2012, the facility underwent a two-year, $15 million complete makeover; the only thing remaining of the original planetarium are portions of the iconic concrete dome dating back to 1961.

This facility is also the new home for the Challenger Learning Center, previously located at Brooks City-Base. These centers teach math, science, and problem-solving skills through space flight simulations. One of the principal founders was June Scobee, now June Scobee Rodgers. We will tell you more about this amazing program in a future “Everyday Journeys.”

In preparing for this column, we had the privilege of meeting with Robert “Bob” Kelley, who carries the official title of coordinator of the planetarium. Bob has been there for more than 34 years and has seen the planetarium transformed into this magnificent facility. His passion is unmistakable.

His interest in space began during high school, when he visited the San Antonio Planetarium and thought to himself, “This would be a great job to have.” After 34 years at the planetarium, he still feels that way!

Today, Kelley is more enthusiastic than ever, seeing the planetarium blossom into a world-class venue. He also designed and created four beautiful stained-glass spheres depicting planets, comets, and constellations, bringing art and science together. They are displayed on the front wall, just inside the front entrance. Just look up.

The newly redesigned planetarium theater has 100 high-back seats, tilted slightly toward the projection dome above, giving visitors a perfect view in total comfort. The lighting and sound systems are state-of-the-art, and enhance the incredible programs offered there.

The planetarium theater is open to the public on Friday evenings only; free parking is available in Lot 21, immediately adjacent to the planetarium. A wide variety of programs are offered. The 6 p.m. presentation is always for the younger set, 4 years and older, such as “The Little Star that Could” and the “Secrets of the Cardboard Rocket.” The 7:30 p.m. program is usually a tour of the night sky from anywhere on earth. At 9 p.m., enjoy titles such as “Ice Worlds” and “Experience the Aurora,” taking the audience on a breathtaking journey of the Northern Lights. Programs change every two months, so there is always something new.

Following each show, if the sky is clear, visitors are invited up to the Star Deck on the roof and into the Star Tower nicknamed “The Raspa” to view the moon and the stars through the planetarium’s new $25,000 telescope. The observatory’s dome opens to the sky and can rotate 360 degrees. The planetarium is handicapped accessible, including a special lift for wheelchairs for viewing through the telescope eyepiece.

It’s a great place to visit, and makes a wonderful Friday evening family outing or even a date night!

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.

Know before you go

Programs are open to the public on Fridays only.

Check the website for dates, times, and ticket prices, which range from $2-$5. Tickets are available 30 minutes before the posted show times. Cash or check only.

Most shows fill up quickly, so get there early. No reservations are accepted.

Late admissions are not permitted.

Be prepared to be amazed!

Keep up with the stars

The best way to keep current with activities & programs is the Scobee Planetarium’s Facebook page.

The Scobee Planetarium is located on the San Antonio College Campus, 1300 San Pedro Avenue in San Antonio. Call 210-486-0100 or visit www.alamo.edu/sac/planetarium/.

 
 
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