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 SRU Upgrades its Planetarium 



Sept. 18, 2003

CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine (724) 738-4854;  e-mail:



           SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – With Mars at its closest point to earth in thousands of years and more people taking up astronomy as a hobby, Slippery Rock University is completing a major upgrade to its planetarium to provide enhanced earth/space science education and better seating for students and the public.

           Long-term, the Butler County university of 7,800 hopes to launch a minor in astronomy and offer a planetarium visit as part of on-campus recruiting, Dr. Ben Shaevitz, professor of chemistry and physics, said.

           The 36-year-old planetarium has received new control electronics and a modern audio system including wireless microphones. A third phase – scheduled for completion this month – includes specially designed chairs, new flooring and painting. The planetarium is in Vincent Science Hall.

           “These upgrades will help us better prepare elementary education majors who will teach science, and itwill advance our earth and space secondary science education program,” Shaevitz said.

 Creature comforts

            Students will view the changing sky with ease and comfort, as a projector presents the relative position and brightness of thousands of stars and planets. The university purchased 49 hi-back chairs, mounted in reclining positions. They replace original fiberglass chairs, Shaevitz said.

            SRU rearranged the room to an oval-shaped configuration for better viewing.       

More stargazers

           More Americans stargaze as a hobby. During the recent Mars observations, crowds in the thousands were not uncommon at telescope-viewing sessions, Kelly Beatty, executive editor of Sky & Telescope magazine, said.

           “I would at least be inclined to agree that interest in "backyard astronomy" is higher now than at any time since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (1990),” she said.

           Planetariums provide several advantages, though, because city lights, cloud cover and inclement weather are not obstacles to viewing stars, Shaevitz said.

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