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August 6, 2008 > Launching minds into the stratosphere

Launching minds into the stratosphere

By Giovanni Albanese

The Chabot Space and Science Center, located in Oakland, is in its 125th year of existence. Its mission is to inspire and educate students of all ages about planet Earth and the universe.

Opened in 1883 as a gift by Anthony Chabot, the Oakland Observatory was located in downtown Oakland. For the first several decades of its existence, it served as the official timekeeping station for the entire Bay Area.

In 1915, the observatory was relocated to Mountain Boulevard. Later, in the 1960s, the observatory expanded when it built a 90-seat planetarium, science labs and classrooms, a library, workshops and an exhibit room. It was at this time the observatory was renamed the Chabot Science Center. In the late 1970s, students' access to the original observatory facility was terminated due to safety issues. Then, in 1989, realizing the need for full use of the facility, the then-named Chabot Observatory and Science Center formed a Joint Powers Agency with the city of Oakland, the Oakland Unified School District and the East Bay Regional Park District, in collaboration with the Eastbay Astronomical Society. In 1992, it officially was recognized as a nonprofit organization.

The Joint Powers Agency began repair on the center in 1998. In 2000, after changing its name to the Chabot Space and Science Center - feeling the name better stated the organization's focus on astronomy and space sciences - the center opened.

Chabot Space and Science Center, which is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, strives to educate students, teachers and the public. There are programs for each: The students program is an effective on-site and outreach program for grades K-12 and helps roughly 50,000 students annually; The teachers' program helps nearly 2,000 teachers per year in a professional development program for them to spread to their students; and the public programs serve nearly 150,000 people annually through classes, lectures, shows and interactive exhibits.

With an observatory, planetarium, exhibits and a natural park setting, there is always something to do for students, teachers or the general public. The most recent show to hit the Chabot Space and Science Center was "Dawn of the Space Age."

The show, featured in the 70-foot digital Ask Jeeves Planetarium, gives an accurate history of the first encounter of humankind in space. "Dawn of the Space Age," which debuted on July 25, begins with the launch of Sputnik - the first space vehicle launched - and also gives important history about Russia's quest for space travel, and other American shuttle programs. Total runtime of this epic, animated Mirage 3D Production is 30 minutes.

"Dawn of the Space Age" is just one of many shows the Chabot Space and Science Center has to offer. There are 16 additional shows playing in the planetarium, for people of all ages.

To learn more about the Chabot Space and Science Center, or to check for show times and tickets, visit

Chabot Space and Science Center
10000 Skyline Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94619

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