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Taking a clearer look at the night sky

photo of the planetarium from the outside

The portable planetarium looks like a big, black igloo.

Things were looking up at Central Valley’s elementary schools in late December. Actually, it was the students who were looking up—looking up at the stars, thanks to a visit from the OHM BOCES Portable Planetarium.

The planetarium made a stop at Fisher Elementary on Thursday, Dec. 18 and then at Barringer Road Elementary on Friday, Dec. 19.

The planetarium is a large inflatable dome, like a bouncy house From the outside, it looks like a big, black igloo. Stepping through the narrow slit of the door, students discovered it was much more.

The room is like a giant round tent. Made of special fabric, no light passes through, making the room completely dark. A projector in the center cast an image of the heavens on the dome’s ceiling, the same site that the students would see if they were to lie on their backs and look up at the sky. With a push of a button, that image rotated to reflect the hour of day and the time of the year.

Photo of the constellations outlined on the planetarium's ceiling.

By connecting groups of stars, ancient people imagined mythological creatures, people and objects in the sky.

OHM BOCES educator Loren Dachary pointed out the Polaris the North Star and other family sights. She then displayed the sky with the constellations clearly outlined. Ms. Dachary shared several of the great mythological stories that civilizations once told to explain the patterns they saw in the sky. The lesson ties together ancient literature and modern science in a 45-minute lesson.

Afterward, students excitedly talked about things they had learned. Orion the Hunter with his bow is easily found by locating the three stars in a row that make up his belt. The Big Dipper is part of Ursa Major (the Big or Giant Bear) constellation. The North Star is part of the Little Dipper and is not the brightest star in the sky.





Photo of students looking up.

Looking up, students could see the stars, planets and constellations.

Photo of woman speaking to a class of students.

OHM BOCES instructor Loren Dachary shared a lesson in astronomy and mythology.

Class photo in front of the planetarium

Each class exited the planetarium filled with new excitement for the night sky.