Planetarium celebrates Apollo 11 landing

Allison CollinsTwins Liam and Nick Thompson, 8, of Oneonta, view the solar system through Google Cardboard glasses Saturday at the Foothills Performing Arts Center during space-themed programming offered by the Huntington Memorial Library.

Budding space enthusiasts celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing Saturday with a “trip” around the cosmos.

As part of its “Universe of Stories” summer programming, the Huntington Memorial Library presented the Kopernik Portable Planetarium at the Foothills Performing Arts Center. According to a media release, the planetarium, part of the Kopernik Observatory and Science Center in Vestal, features a 5-meter dome and high-resolution, 360-degree digital projection of the night sky.

Roy Williams, a Charlotte Valley science teacher and instructor with the observatory, said bringing the planetarium to such events underscores the center’s mission.

“It’s a digital simulation of the night sky that has software you can use to go anywhere on Earth. We can go to Australia or the North Pole or we can go to 1,000 years ago or five years from now,” he said. “We take this all over New York and Pennsylvania as part of our outreach.

“This is the best way of showing the night sky during the day or on a day that’s cloudy,” Williams continued. “The science center is more of a classroom than a museum … and this helps show people the stars and they love it, they really do.”

The center purchased the roughly $80,000 inflatable planetarium, Williams said, with grant funding four years ago.

“It’s very unique,” he said. “It was made in Texas and there are not that many of them.”

Williams gave several 20-minute presentations within the planetarium and library officials said 76 families registered for the event, offered free to children 4 and up.

Kathryn Prada, Huntington youth librarian, said she began planning the event in March.

“I picked this (activity) on this day because of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, so it worked out perfectly,” she said. “It’s a very fun event because it brings the night sky down to Earth.”

The planetarium, Prada noted, visited Huntington two years ago. Patrons and librarians, she said, were enthusiastic for its return.

“I’ve definitely heard people saying that they had a lot of fun and I’ve had a lot of families coming up to me saying how much they enjoyed it,” she said. “It fit with our (summer) theme and many other libraries that have hosted it were abuzz about it.”

The library’s participation in Universe of Stories programming, Prada said, is funded by “three major sponsors”: the Parisians, the Baker family and the Friends of the Library. The theme, she noted, is coordinated nationwide through the Collaborative Summer Library Program.

Other spacey activities Saturday included an astronaut selfie station, coloring, LEGO building and views of the solar system and lunar landing through smartphone-compatible virtual reality Google Cardboard glasses.

Attendees said they appreciate the library’s no-cost offerings.

“I thought it was cool and I’ve never been in a dome (planetarium) like that before,” Oneonta resident and parent Brianne Thompson said. Thompson, who said she read about the event in the library newsletter, attended with 8-year-old twins Nick and Liam.

“We try to (go to library programming) because it’s free events for kids (with) a lot of diversity,” she said. “They get a lot of experiences that they normally wouldn’t.”

The library’s next event will feature Moreland the Magician performing a space-themed routine at the library at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 25.

For more information or to view a calendar of upcoming events, visit hmloneonta.org, call 432-1980 or find “Huntington Memorial Library” on Facebook. The library is at 62 Chestnut St.

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