Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be to see stars when you look up at night? If you’re on campus, or pretty much anywhere near downtown, the light pollution drowns out all but the brightest stars.
There is, however, one spot in the middle of San Antonio that offers an unparalleled view of outer space, in addition to having comfortable seating and air conditioning.
The Scobee Planetarium, on the San Antonio College campus, has been opening the skies to people of all ages for the past 50 years. Until now, a handful of staff has been accommodating over 20,000 visitors per year in a building that only consists of a theater with seating for 70 to 85 people at a time.
Starting in March, however, long awaited renovations will begin to expand the theater and add room for more space-related fun. Sadly, the planetarium will be closed for about a year while the construction takes place, but the wait will be well worth it.
Current plans include replacing the theater bench seats with comfy individual seating for up to a hundred people, a museum, a gift shop and an observatory on the third floor. Another addition will be a Challenger Center for Kids (similar to one at NASA in Houston and several other centers around the country) that will have a control room where kids can do mock space missions as well as other fun, interactive ways to learn about outer space.
These changes should bring in new visitors. Before the upgrade, the planetarium was only open to the public for shows on Fridays, while the other weekdays were reserved for school trips. The extra space will allow for a greater variety of times for public shows throughout the week.
The improvements will also help better accommodate the regular visitors. Kids on field trips will have more to see and do in the museum and Challenger Center. The observatory will be a nice addition for groups like the San Antonio League of Sidewalk Astronomers, who usually set up their telescopes on, well, the sidewalks.
If you have never been to the planetarium, it’s a theater where the screen is above you; it’s like you’re looking up at the sky. The shows all center around the space theme, but they vary from black holes to the Aurora Borealis to space pirates.
So get your fill of the starless San Antonio sky while you can; once the new Scobee Planetarium is finished you will never look at the sky the same way again.