Do you know how many people watch shows at the Radford University Planetarium?
The numbers are astronomical!
OK, perhaps that’s a bit hyperbolic, but each year, thousands enter the 55-seat domed theater space to travel virtually through the cosmos. The planetarium is the center for astronomy and space science education for Radford University and the surrounding area, offering regular free public shows while also hosting numerous K-12 and community groups.
From the beginning of January through the end of October, the planetarium has welcomed more than 4,700 visitors for 190 separate shows. That number includes 1,175 school kids, teachers and chaperons for Science Days hosted by the Artis College of Science and Technology.
Since the planetarium inside the Center for the Sciences opened in the spring of 2016, 29,132 people have oohed and aahed at the marvel at the wonders of the universe at 1,294 separate shows.
But that’s only part of the story.
The original Radford University Planetarium operated on the ground floor of Curie Hall and Professor of Physics Rhett Herman began offering public shows there in September 1999. Combing the two locations, the old and the new, more than 70,000 people have visited the Radford University campus for shows.
Popular current shows such as “Big Astronomy” and “Worlds of Curiosity” have the planetarium firmly on pace to welcome more than 5,000 visitors for 2023.
“As President [Bret] Danilowicz said when announcing the new brand identity, the planetarium is a big part of both the university and the surrounding community,” Herman said. “Through our Science Days outreach and other public shows and community events, we are happy to be a major resource for science education in the New River Valley and surrounding areas.”
The planetarium is “not only an educational tool that benefits astronomy students in their studies, but it also fosters a connection between the science community and the general public,” said Jordan Eagle ’16, who once operated the Radford Planetarium and is now a NASA postdoctoral program fellow at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Engaging with our broader communities is something we should never take for granted and should always be one of our top priorities as scientists.”
Plus, Herman notes, “It’s about the coolest work-study job on campus. In fact, the only reason we have so many shows is that the vast majority are run by enthusiastic work-study students.”
Chad Osborne for Radford University