The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN planetarium offers view at universe through lens

The San Fernando Valley’s lights often wash out the star-filled sky making it impossible to embrace the beautiful solar system. On CSUN’s campus, however, the Don E. Bianchi Planetarium gives spectators an opportunity to view planets and more than 2,000 stars.

“Most people usually ignore the sky,” said Jeff Batten, electronics technician in charge of maintaining a sensitive and complicated projector inside the planetarium. “You have to drive a ways out of Los Angeles to actually see the stars.”

As visitors look at the sky from inside the dome-shaped building, constellations and planets are relayed.

“The planetarium shows are an excellent introduction to astronomy,” said Dr. Stephen Walton, astronomy professor and planetarium director. “It is still a science that fascinates the public, which can be made accessible to interested non-scientists.”

Speakers host lectures weekly in the planetarium during regular fall and spring semesters.

Dr. Jan Dobias, planetarium program coordinator, said about 25 people usually attend public shows. Dobias prepares and organizes events at the planetarium.

During the summer months, the planetarium hosts bi-weekly shows and telescope viewings, Dobias said.

The price of a ticket is $3 for students and $5 for general admission.

The planetarium is named after the dean who founded the College of Science and Mathematics. The concept of the building came from the original planetarium director, Dr. Adrian Herzog. Primarily established in 1991 to assist in teaching astronomy classes, the planetarium opened its doors to the public in 2002, Walton said.

The 105-seat theatre is surrounded by a 40-foot dome that showcases the universe.

“Every show includes a guide to the night sky, so that everyone who comes can leave with an increased knowledge of what they can see with their own eye,” Walton said.

The observatory also opens up to view celestial objects when weather permits.

“The planetarium shows what we can only describe in our lectures,” Dobias said.

Most faculty who work at the planetarium express a passion for astronomy.

“I’ve been fascinated with astronomy since I was young and decided to become a professional astronomer while still in high school,” Walton said.

Batten expressed similar sentiments.

“Astronomy has been a hobby of mine ever since I was a kid when my Dad bought me a telescope,” he said.

Batten follows the skies patterns and recently went to Turkey to witness the total eclipse.

Walton sums up astronomy as the study of everything that touches “the beginning and end of the universe, the origin of evolution and life.”

Walton said he encourages CSUN students to step inside and learn more about the universe.

“I simply enjoy learning about how the universe works and studying astronomy is one of the best ways to do that,” Walton said.

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