Proud of East Texas: TJC Planetarium - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Proud of East Texas: TJC Planetarium


The music that fills the domed building on the Tyler Junior College campus is a dramatic introduction to travel to outer space, a visit to Mars, or a walk on the moon. They all can be experienced at TJC's Center for Earth and Space Science Education.

"I was amazed at the history behind, not just TJC, but specifically this facility."

Kim Lessner, Executive Director of Marketing at TJC, says the center, originally named the Hudnall Planetarium, has introduced countless East Texas school children, as well as other visitors to science and space.

"We've had nearly forty thousand visitors every year and those numbers have been increasing in the last several years and they come from all over."

When the planetarium opened in 1963, it was one of only a hundred such facilities in the world, it's still a marvel with its 40-foot domed theater and Digitar 5 digital projection technology.

"It's literally like you're taking off in a spaceship."

Doug Parsons, a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at TJC, runs the projection equipment that creates the awe and wonder that science students and visitors experience when the lights in the theater dim and the moon seems to come close enough to touch.

"You can see a lot of craters, fly around to the back side of the moon and see the part you can't see from the earth."

Although the sensation is visual, it feels very real.

"A lot of people don't expect to see what they see and to be able to see it up and personal is interesting for them and it gives you that sense of calm and wonder."

While the dome theater is perfect for the creation of space, it's also used for a variety of other shows like science related movies, the special Love Under the Stars Valentine show and Christmas show, and the Bubble Man show, which has become a yearly regular.

And of course, there's its primary purpose in science education for students and the community.

"To have a 40-foot dome theater in East Texas, have it be open to the public if you will, Tuesday through Saturday, we really are lucky to have the facility."

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