The Mesa Community College planetarium workers discuss the secret gems of the planetarium that the MCC community can experience during the fall and spring semesters.
The MCC planetarium director and coordinator highlight how MCC has the only planetarium in the Maricopa County Community College District and how students not involved in astronomy can enjoy it.
The planetarium holds astronomy nights on the first Friday of every month during the fall and spring semesters.
Planetarium Coordinator James Enos said the planetarium is open during the months of September, October, November, and December before closing for winter break. The planetarium then opens back up again for the months of February, March, April, and May.
The planetarium has held one event so far this semester, and has three more planned. The planetarium will hold a “Secrets of the Sun” showcase and their annual “Tour the Universe with Pink Floyd” to name a couple.
“We have this Pink Floyd show that we do every single year, so twice a year. Since Pink Floyd and planetariums go together like peanut butter and jelly, I guess,” said planetarium coordinator James Enos.
Enos said they plan shows in advance and attempt to change the lineup to give guests a variety of shows to enjoy in the rotation.
The planetarium uses a service that does not need licenses to view short term rental shows, similar to Netflix. For short term shows, Enos can use the service and pick out a show without having to pay a big licensing fee.
“We have a broad range of shows from Ancient Egypt to weather and geology on Earth. It’s a spacey facility so we have shows about the universe and planets orbiting other stars,” said planetarium director at MCC Kevin Healy.
Another practice the planetarium wants to put back into effect is the honor students at MCC picking what show that they want to see at the planetarium exclusively for them.
Before COVID-19, this practice would occur every semester.
It has been put on pause, but the planetarium wants to get that back into rotation, according to Healy.
Healy and Enos both urge students, community members, or anyone who enjoys astronomy to attend a show as the MCC planetarium is only on of a few in the state of Arizona.
“I think that astronomy in particular has a way of putting things into perspective. At least for me it reminds me that the world is much bigger than some of the problems that we may be dealing with on a daily basis,” said Enos.
Visitors that come to the planetarium can see images put into a different perspective at the full dome shows. According to Healy, the planetarium acts as a canvas across the entire dome instead of just in front of you, such as you would experience at a traditional movie theater.
“We have this sky overhead every single day and not a lot of people know what we are looking at up there. It’s a part of our culture because every constellation has a story,” said Enos.
Enos credited the planetarium with getting people to stay connected with history that would keep them better educated and well rounded because they went out of the scope of their everyday practices.
The planetarium was constructed in 2008, and underwent renovations in 2018.
At the planetarium, visitors can experience digital models of the earth and see places such as the Grand Canyon, South Mountains, or the Himalayas, according to Healy.
Since the planetarium was remodeled in 2018, it has a full digital model of the earth. Faculty can teach a class and show any part of the earth in high resolution and 3D.
The planetarium can seat 52 people at a time, and the astronomy events they hold are well attended, according to Healy.
Healy works to connect instructors to the planetarium if they want a lesson to be shown. He previously worked as the planetarium coordinator before James Enos.
Enos was one of the first students to use the planetarium as a former student of MCC, and graduated when the planetarium was built in 2008.
Monthly events for the planetarium start at 6 p.m. and end at 10 p.m., and a new show would start every hour. Tickets can be purchased through MCC’s website and parking is free.