By: Jordan Castaldo, Free Press Staff
Built in 1969 and dedicated in 1970, the Southworth Planetarium is located in the Science Building of USM’s Portland campus. They offer a variety of shows, classes, First Friday Art Walk and lectures. Additionally, they have a weekly radio program, “Radio Astronomy!,” that airs from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays, with hosts Edward Gleason, the planetarium, and Bernie Reim. The planetarium is the perfect place to check out for anyone interested in the solar system around us and the dinosaurs before us.
Southworth Planetarium was built because of Clara Southworth, who was a professional seamstress and the wife of publisher Constant Southworth. She wanted the Greater Portland area to have an astronomical education resource. Initially, it was intended to be a teaching planetarium but, over time, it evolved into a great public space that offers a variety of exhibitions. Gleason feels that the university is special and important to USM.
“The planetarium has expanded significantly since its inception,” Gleason said.
The Southworth Planetarium has about 17,000–20,000 attendees a year. Children as young as preschoolers all the way to high schoolers come to visit on school field trips. When the students visit, they are able to participate in labs, conducted for the students by the staff at the planetarium. They also teach courses and lectures to the children, along with the adults. These lectures are not just for field trips. Students at USM and other people in the Greater Portland area are able to sign up for these lectures. It is an easy and lively way to learn all about astronomy and the world before humans arrived.
The most popular shows at the Southworth Planetarium, as of now, are the “Dinosaurs at Dusk” and the “Hubble Vision 2.” The “Dinosaurs at Dusk” show is the perfect show for any dinosaur-loving student or adult. Experienced in the stunning full dome, this show takes viewers through an exploration of Earth when Pteranodons, Triceratops, T-Rexes and other large reptiles were crawling about. Not to mention, the full dome shows are visually ahead of the original equipment that they used at the planetarium’s onset.
“Our full dome shows are visually light years ahead of the original equipment,” Gleason said.
The “Hubble Vision 2” has the most exciting Hubble Space Telescope images. The staff at the planetarium have put those images into a brilliant story of cosmic exploration so that viewers have a chance to see Earth and the rest of the solar system from Earth’s orbit.
These two shows are just a couple of the many shows the Southworth Planetarium provides. They offer a month-to-month schedule of shows and exhibits that anyone can check out, based on specific interests. Also, USM students, faculty, planetarium members and staff are always admitted for free to any of these shows and exhibits. Now, there’s no excuse not to check out the Southworth Planetarium.