Professor awaits reopening of planetarium

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Renovations to the outer shell of Scobee Aug. 1  Photo by Ingrid Wilgen

Renovations to the outer shell of Scobee Planetarium Aug. 1 Photo by Ingrid Wilgen

Tower will make Challenger Center the second tallest building on campus.


The new Challenger Center and remodeled Planetarium will open in the fall, and no one is more eager to enjoy the amenities the new facility has to offer than astronomy Professor Alfred Alaniz.

“I am most interested in the top floor open observation deck,” he said Oct. 2. Alaniz has been looking at the sky from the top floor of the parking garage.

“During the design process, I requested a platform that my students can measure the sky from,” he said.

David Mrizek, vice president of college services, said the top floor of the observation deck will be about 36 feet tall and have an area of about 2,376 square feet.

The center will be the second tallest building on campus. The tallest is Moody Learning Center with seven stories.

The planetarium is being remodeled, increasing the size and adding more seating and restrooms.

Building of the Challenger Center started May 2 and is scheduled to be finished by fall.

The Challenger Center will have activities that educate students in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Challenger Learning Centers are programs to equip students with knowledge, confidence, and skills to better themselves and the nation, reports the official website for the Challenger Center.

There are 45 other Challenger Centers in the country with three in Texas. Houston is home to the first Challenger Center, which opened in August 1988. It was opened by families of the crew that were lost from Space Shuttle Challenger/STS-51L, which exploded 73 seconds after liftoff Jan. 28, 1986.

Alaniz asked planetarium Director Bob Kelley for telescope piers, electricity and data inputs. A pier is a telescope base, and the data inputs allow access to the Web, among other uses.

Students attach telescopes to the permanent piers that face Polaris, the north star, he said.

Alaniz said he believes the San Antonio community is going to benefit from the center with emphasis on students who have not entered high school.

“We have to get students attracted to science, technology, engineering and mathematics early because they tend to deviate around the age of 10,” he said. He said all the STEM fields will be able to gain from the center.

Alaniz said students at this college can anticipate acquiring greater knowledge for astronomy. “You can study it freely; all you have to do is go outside,” he said.

A possibility of remote access to telescopes located in Marathon might be available, Alaniz said with elation.

This opportunity was made possible by a professor from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, he said.

He said it’s dark out in West Texas and one can see exactly what is going on at the moment. It’s dry and there are clear skies year-round, he added.

This will allow this college to see images through telescopes in Marathon with remote or manual access via display at this college.

“I’ve gotten so used to having the planetarium. Now that’s gone I’m having withdrawal symptoms,” Alaniz said jokingly.

Alaniz said he is currently using computer software in his classes to suffice for not being able to take classes to the planetarium.

For more information, call Alaniz at 210-486-0060.


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