TAMIU Planetarium set to reopen June 1
By Cesar A. Oldham
Bridge contributing writer
Published Saturday, April 3, 2021
The Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium at TAMIU plans to reopen to the public on June 1 since its March 13, 2020, shutdown for the pandemic.
The planetarium officials’ goals are to ignite an interest in children’s lives by teaching them the wonders of life on Earth, the universe and the passage of scientific discovery over time. Its chief official is Director Peter Davis.
“I miss having the public and children coming to the planetarium and showing them exciting things about the universe,” Davis said. “The planetarium is ready to open on June 1, if allowed to.”
In order to reopen, the Texas A&M International University Planetarium will implement a social distancing plan with 20 to 25 people per show. This includes separating two or three seats from anyone who is not part of one’s immediate family. The plans include placing no one behind a guest nor in front of them during the show and the planetarium will be sanitized. Additionally, the gift store plans to sell only sealed snacks such as chips and candy.
One of the first shows to debut will be “Giants of Patagonia,” which Davis said, “Kids will love it.”
One of the pandemic challenges created for the planetarium is, “having to stay closed for about a year now, which has been hard on the equipment the planetarium utilizes to not be put to use,” Davis said.
Students, staff and members of the community reached out to Davis, asking for updates on when the planetarium will reopen.
“Virtual TAMIU planetarium shows like, ‘Romantic Legends of the Sky’ will be able to be viewed online for now,” Davis said. He was “shocked” when he had to close the planetarium one day to the next, beginning on March 13, 2020, and did not realize then that he would be showing its last show for more than a year.
When Davis arrived at TAMIU, the planetarium system was old but still advanced enough to include six projectors. Davis, over time, added a resolution system with four computers controlling the projections.
Davis said he loves his job, as well as teaching students who he misses seeing in the physical classroom.
“I think people do not realize that this is a good planetarium,” Davis said. “It’s a very sophisticated planetarium for a city of this size. I am glad we have such a nice facility thanks to the Lamar Bruni Vergara foundation. It’s great. It’s excited people about the universe and the pyramid is one of only two planetariums built that way. The other is in Connecticut and funded by NASA.”
TAMIU graduate students Roberto Diaz, business administration, and Richard Esqueda, sociology, both attended shows at the planetarium.
“I have attended different planetarium shows, but the last time I attended I watched a show called ‘Earth, Moon and Sun,’” Diaz said.
Esqueda could not recall the name of the show he last attended but said, “I have attended a show before and it was about stars, light and pollution limiting our view of the stars—which I found interesting at the time.”
Both students expressed interest in attending future shows.
“Even though I have attended, I would still like to attend future shows,” Esqueda said.
Diaz also said the current state of the pandemic would make him hesitant to attend a show until he sees precautions taken by the TAMIU planetarium.
“With the current state of COVID-19, I do not believe it is the safest time to go to a planetarium—especially if multiple people are attending the event,” Diaz said.
Esqueda added, “I would like if the planetarium had glass barriers every couple of seats and temperature checks at the entrance. I attended a show about three years ago but I did not think it would be my last time attending. I was actually planning on going before COVID-19 hit Laredo.”
One last thought Diaz offered, “… is TAMIU going to be enforcing the testing of the staff before reopening?”