Planetarium Planned For CSM campus

College of San Mateo is looking to raise $750,000 for the Reach for the Stars campaign, created to suffice young students with hands-on science lessons.

Currently, College of San Mateo (CSM) is undergoing construction to better the science department. A new observatory, including a retractable roof, as well as a new planetarium dome will make its debut once the building is complete, which is scheduled for opening in the fall of 2006.

The campaign was thought of roughly ten years ago, when it was understood that replacement parts for the aging star projector were becoming scarcer, and are now unavailable. The cost of the replacement projector, however, is not coming cheap. Campaign coordinator Milla McConnell-Tuite explained that the projector itself is perhaps the most costly of the project.

“This is a critical piece of equipment that also has a big price tag,” McConnell-Tuite said. The campaign, which will cost an estimated $22 million dollars, with roughly half a million of that dedicated to a brand new star projector. The 34-foot dome will stretch to 40 feet, and 70 seats will jump to 100.

A portion of the campaign cost is being covered by bond measure C, which passed in 2002. The remainder of the funding comes from an ongoing fundraiser, in which individuals, families, social groups, and companies donate a certain amount of money and get their name or log engraved in a star that will line the planetarium walls.

Astronomy program coordinator Moshen Janatpour, professor of physics and astronomy, and astronomy professor Darryl Stanford are both looking forward to the opening of the planetarium, not only to teach their classes better equipped, but also to share the science experience with young students across the peninsula.

“As sad as it sounds,” McConnell-Tuite said, “these star shows are some of the only science experiences a lot of these children ever get.” The planetarium as of now is booked up for star shows every Friday and most Wednesdays through the end of May. Bay Area and Peninsula students often partake in fieldtrips to Stanford’s shows. It is also open to the public every first two Fridays of the month.

“Astronomy is only a subsection of science,” Janatpour said, “what we’re doing is making science fun for young students.”