Last week marked the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Mayborn Planetarium and Space Theater.
Located on the campus of Central Texas College, the facility opened Aug. 22, 2003, and provides local residents with a place to be entertained and learn about the universe.
“Part of out mandate is to bring science education to everyone, and make it accessible and relevant,” said Fred Chavez, the director of planetarium and visitor services. “We look to that to guide everything that we do here.”
Chavez has been the planetarium director for the last eight years, and has watched the facility grow.
In 2009, the technology for projecting images on the planetarium’s 60-foot domed screen was swapped out from a slide-based system to a fully digital model.
“It’s fantastic, because you are completely immersed in what’s going on,” Chavez said.
Those changes don’t just stop with what’s available inside the dome. This year, Chavez and his staff began creating and organizing educational science exhibits as well. Most recently, they created a space for scientific exhibits. There is an exhibit on the tiles used on the now-retired Space Shuttle, which are prominently on display in the exhibition space.
“It’s a piece of space history, and it’s right here for everyone,” Chavez said.
The planetarium is coming off a highly successful run. Between 2010 and 2012, the facility saw an average of 43,000 visitors annually and brought in an average of $45,000 over that same period. Chavez said now that some of the funding that was cut to local school districts has been restored, the facility might again see a bump in attendance from renewed field trips.
While some may think the planetarium is only for light shows, Chavez said its goal is much broader.
“What we do is more like public outreach and raising awareness for science,” Chavez said. “We want to show people how science fits into their lives.”
This year, the planetarium will get a name change to reflect the broader scope of what it offers. College officials confirmed plans to change the name to the Mayborn Science Theater.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.