By Katherine Wilcox
Stars and comets shoot across the domed screen as people settle into their seats of the small round room that is the St. Petersburg College Planetarium. It’s Friday night and the small room is almost filled to capacity, even leaving some behind to wait for the next show. Dr. Craig Joseph then begins his presentation. It’s time to expand your space knowledge!
”Astronomy helps us learn about our origins,” Dr. Joseph said when asked what makes education about our universe important, “Aside from the fact that it’s worth while expanding your horizons and going beyond the mundane things of everyday life… I think it’s really important to learn things about our origins and our place in the universe.”
Luckily, information about this expanding world around us is easy to access then one may think. The SPC Gibb’s campus is home to the schools Planetarium and Observatory. Every Friday night Dr. Joseph hosts a tour of the solar system and beyond in his hour long presentation. These are open to the public and free to anyone who wants to attend. If they’re lucky and weather permits, they may even open the rooftop and let attendants look through one of their high-powered telescopes and get a look at Saturn and it’s rings or the red planet of Mars.
“It’s worth going to,” says Tobi Easterman, a current student at SPC who also attends Dr. Joseph’s Astronomy class, “We went on the roof and looked through a telescope that actually let you see Saturn and the rings. It kind of makes you feel a part of it all.”
The planetarium has been making the public feel “A part of it all” for nearly half a century now. It opened in 1958 and SPC started doing the shows not long after. Dr. Joseph had prior experience with the planetariums at Ohio State University and Bowling Green State University before settling at SPC in 1996. He now hosts the planetarium shows as well as teach classes on Astronomy at the SPC Gibbs campus (One of his classes is even called “Universe: Infinite Frontier”).
When asked why this is important to become knowledgeable on, Dr. Joseph says; ”Ultimately I think Astronomy can have a bearing on the future of the Earth.” He mentions the ever bearing asteroid threat and even the future as far as space travel and even space colonization. The study of space and the universe can all be attributed to a core humanistic instinct- to know where the human race came from. Dr. Joseph pointed out one of his favorite quotes by famous Astronomer Carl Sagan; “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
The SPC Planetarium hosts shows every friday at the SPC Gibbs Campus (in the SC building in the Planetarium on the second floor). The shows are at 7:00 pm and 8:15 pm. Seats are limited and first come, first serve. Take a seat for a show and step out with a greater understanding of where we came from and where we’re going.
Additional photo By Katherine Wilcox