February 3, 2004 > Our Local Sky Dome
Our Local Sky Dome
by Arathi Satish
All of us wish to ride among the stars. We can do that from the comfort of seats under a 30 foot viewing dome where children and adults experience a fascinating show that allows them to enter the cosmos and fly through space. Many in the Tri-Cities may be unaware of the Planetarium located in the heart of Mission area. In the late 1960's, the community raised $25,000 to build a local Planetarium. That amount was then matched by the federal government and the birth of Hopkins Planetarium took place at William Hopkins Junior High School.
The Planetarium can seat 70 people under its circular dome that wraps around the audience. Shows introduce some of the greatest wonders of nature - the starry skies, cosmic forces, seasonal changes in the sky, and various geological phenomena. The projector in the center produces stars, galaxies, planets and the Milky Way, transforming the dark domed room into a celestial world.
Yvonne Alexander, Planetarium Director and Science teacher at Hopkins, has been trying inform the community of this local resource and "bring it out" to the public. The planetarium has approximately 33 shows during school year, with a maximum of 3 shows a week. The show lasts for an hour. These are live shows and as narrator and producer, Ms. Alexander, keeps track of space related issues, so they can be incorporated in presentations. Information is also obtained by contact with NASA and other observatories.
The Planetarium is open to students of public and private schools in Fremont, Newark, Union City, and Hayward areas. Teachers are encouraged to specify their interests and curriculum needs so that those aspects can be highlighted in the show.
Current field trips available are: The Solar System (Learn about our solar system and its planets). The Universe (Our universe contains many galaxies, nebulae and other deep space objects). Backyard Astronomy (This show varies with each season. It highlights the constellations and planets that are visible that evening). Constellations (This show is an introduction to constellations and many myths that abound. Each ancient culture has its own names and stories to describe the star patterns we see at night).
The major problem the planetarium faces, according to Ms. Alexander is the antique machinery, now over 40 years old. The expense of running and maintaining the planetarium is high. Parents and people interested in helping out are encouraged to do so. Spitz Company maintains the equipment. Expenses are met by money collected from shows, donations, and funds provided by Educational Resources.
Many groups have visited the planetarium including The American Association of University Women, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Open houses are held during spring. The planetarium is also open to private parties. How about an "out of this world" birthday party!
The cost is $200.00 per show for up to 70 children for F.U.S. D. schools and Fremont service groups, $250.00 for all other groups. Hopkins Planetarium is open Monday - Friday.
For reservations or additional information, contact:
Mrs. Yvonne R. Alexander
600 Driscoll Rd., Fremont, CA 94539
(510) 656-3500 Ext. 38020
4210 Technology Dr., Fremont, CA. 94538