SFCC hoists new planetarium dome atop science building

The new, 52-seat Eos Planetarium, gives SFCC students a 360-degree virtual view of the universe

SPOKANE, Wash. - The skies have opened up for Spokane Falls Community College students interested in studying the universe as the school recently opened up a new high-tech planetarium that's giving young people a new view of the stars.

An 18,000 pound dome is the crown jewel of SFCC's new science building. A crane lifted and swung it into place on top of the building Wednesday morning, though the real star at the science building is what's underneath the dome: The new, 52-seat Eos Planetarium, which will give students a 360-degree virtual view of the universe.

The planetarium was originally the idea of SFCC Astronomy Instructor John Whitmer. The state built the round room, but donations, including $200,000 from the student body, paid for the majority of the state-of-the-art projector, the domed ceiling and the new dome outside.

"This is the only digital projector for hundreds of miles," Whitmer said.

The projector makes you feel like you are in outer space, a far cry from how Whitmer used to teach his classes with plastic models.

"Changed it completely; now instead of holding a globe and say imagine this I'm able to flip on the overhead screen and show what it's like to sit on Earth looking up, seeing the phases of the Moon or seasons or motions of planets," he said.

Whitmer also teaches free astronomy lessons to local grade and high school students and his college courses are harder than ever to get into now.

"Always full before but now fill up extra fast, now it's first day first hour," he said.

The planetarium is a high tech tool that sparks a person's interest in the universe around them, Whitmer said. "It's so fun to watch fourth graders in here asking questions you can see them excited about science and that's what we need to have, kids excited about science."

Right now the planetarium is just open to students but beginning March 2 it will open to the public with two shows every Friday night.