Renovations improve UNA planetarium experience

The planetarium and observatory were renovated over the summer. New flooring, paint, chairs and desks were installed, making the facility more comfortable for viewers and students, said assistant professor Mel Blake.

by Staff Writer John Ed Dearman

There’s nothing better than relaxing on a cool fall evening while gazing at the night sky. But, an uncomfortable space could ruin the experience.

Students who go to the planetarium this semester will notice a few changes in its appearance.

Mel Blake, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, said there were many components to the renovations, which started in May and continued throughout the summer. He said the renovations will have a great impact on student learning.

“When people are uncomfortable, people will not be learning as well, especially with older people,” he said. “Now, with these better seats, they will be able to look up at the sky without hurting their necks.”

Brenda Webb, chair of the department of Physics and Earth Science said the department had wanted to renovate the planetarium for a while.

“This has been on our list for a number of years, so it’s not a new thing,” she said. “We have been waiting for a while to get funds from the university to start the project, and once we did we were finally able to start.”

Blake said the major part of the renovations was replacing the seats.

Students were so uncomfortable with the seats that some of them laid on the floor during the planetarium shows on Tuesdays, he said.

“We had these very cheap plastic seats, and there was no padding,” he said. “They were the original seats that were (installed) in the 60s.”

Webb said she and Blake collaborated together to find the most appropriate seating for the planetarium, looking for things such as design, comfort and cost.

“There are standards for planetarium furniture, so we used that to look around and find the best kind,” she said. “There were also cost comparisons. We wanted to find the best kind of furniture to fit in our budget.”

He said in order to replace all the seating, the university also had to replace the entire floor.

Freshman Ian Waldrep said he had no discomfort in the seats.

“I don’t know how it used to be since this is my first year here,” he said. “But I will say that I was very comfortable in my seat, and the show I went to was good as well.”

Senior Adam Netherton likes the renovations.

“I think it is really great that they renovated the planetarium, especially with redoing the seats,” he said. “I never really cared about the old seats. I thought they were a little uncomfortable.

Blake said a company replaced all the old tile with a more modern-looking tile.

“The old tiling was black, and now we have it as a more purplish color to match our theme,” he said.

The company replaced some of the carpeting and repainted the walls, he said.

“They’re supposed to come in later to fix some of the ceiling tiles,” he said. “There has always been a leak in the ceiling, so we won’t have to worry about that anymore.”

The tables connected to the chairs are also new, he said.

“With these new tables, they are more square, so you can use your laptops more efficiently,” he said.

He said the university added a sign close to the parking deck, so visitors can clearly see it. The university also added another sign next to the planetarium.

“Before we had a sign over by the corner, and it was behind bushes, so no one would see it,” he said. “It was also very old, and it was rusting.”

Blake said he hopes there will be more future additions to the planetarium.

“I’m hoping that we will be able to add another projector soon, or even have a full dome projector, because the projector we have now only covers part of it,” he said.