Attendance was taken promptly at 9 a.m. in Brian Richardson’s science class at A.C. Davis High School, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom and a series of announcements on scholarships and student projects.
One of the notifications Thursday morning was somewhat superfluous to this particular physical science class of roughly 30 students: the after-school availability of the University of Washington’s Mobile Planetarium.
“Some students will get to experience this after school, but we get to see it now,” Anderson told his class.
He instructed students to bring their backpacks as they moved downstairs to the auxiliary gym, where university professors from Seattle set up the mobile attraction.
Principal Ryan McDaniel and Maria Urena, who has been with the school’s college success foundation for the past nine years, coordinated the mobile planetarium’s visit to Davis.
The set-up is basically a big, black tent — an inflated dome in the shape of an immense igloo — with an IMAX-like interior for a perfect, transportable replica of the physical planetarium on the university’s campus in Seattle.
Students climbed inside for the presentation, which was projected from a laptop around the dome’s interior for a visually stunning and completely immersive unveiling of outer space.
“It brings astronomy outside the university, especially because the first experience many students have with it isn’t until college, but we know the interest exists way before then,” said Rory Barnes, a professor of astronomy and astrobiology at UW.
Bringing the mobile planetarium to schools around the state teaches students about astronomy, and presentations from inside the dome expose them to the subject as a potential career path, Barnes said.
He and David Fleming — who gave the morning’s presentation — said they were in Pasco the day before, and they planned to rotate showings for Davis students from one class period to the next.
All other students were invited to check out the planetarium later that afternoon — the dome was available at Davis for only a single day.