Stars come out in the daylight July 4
June 9, 2008 · Updated 6:37 PM
BPAA offers free planetarium shows at Eagle Harbor Church.
Throughout the benevolent nights of July, a canopy of stars swims end to end across the island horizon.
Its a treat for local stargazers, who know well the feel of cool grass on nape.
But in winter, the wonders of the night sky often remain elusive, frustrating for those who know what lies tantalizingly close but hopelessly obscured beyond the cloud cover and out of view of the high-powered telescope at the Battle Point Park observatory.
There are so many overcast nights at the observatory, said planetarium program director Nancy Cooper, lingering sadly on the word so for emphasis.
Hence the excitement of Cooper and members of the Battle Point AstroÂnomical Association, who after much labor will unfurl their own canopy of stars, a swathe of fabric 16 feet in diameter, onto which legends like Orion, Perseus, Cassiopeia and other cohorts will soon be projected.
The BPAA will offer a full day of holiday shows in its new portable planetarium on July 4 at Eagle Harbor Church, as part of an ongoing fund-raising effort.
The free shows will begin every 20 minutes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and will be led by Cooper, who has worked for several planetariums, as well as NASAs outreach education program.
In addition to the portable dome, a permanent 19-foot dome will be raised in the observatorys meeting room, which will allow the BPPAs 175 or so members to provide more shows and tours.
The group currently organizes and hosts a number of events, including monthly star parties that utilize the observatorys mammoth telescope.
The portable dome can accommodate about 30 people at a time and will offer the public a glimpse of what organizers hope will become a mobile star show.
The BPAA has reached the mid-point in an effort to implement a traveling planetarium program that would educate children across Bainbridge Island and Kitsap County.
The group recently received more than $30,000 worth of new equipment, including the dome and chairs, and a $20,000 projector that arrived last month.
Another $30,000 is needed to fund the traveling program, in addition to volunteers who are willing to help on any level, from conducting tours to improving the website to grant writing.
We need to get more people involved, said BPAA publicity director James Vaughan. We need more ideas, more hands and more brains.
Mostly, though, the BPAA needs money to fund the program, $20,000 of which would pay Coopers salary. The remaining $10,000 would purchase supplies.
Cooper said they have already spoken to school officials, who are enthusiastic about the idea. If things go as planned, one proposed contract would allow Cooper and the planetarium to visit 100 fifth-grade classrooms beginning in September.
Thats just one of many things well be doing, Vaughan said. I think well be very busy.
The group also plans to visit community and senior centers in the area.
The BPPA has already come a long way toward bringing the vision of the late John Rudolph, one of the observatorys designers, to fruition.
Rudolphs original plans for the observatory, completed in 1997, called for a planetarium on the ground floor.
Sally Metcalf, who was Rudolphs sweetheart, told the Review in January how important the inclusion of a planetarium was to Rudolph.
John loved kids, she said He thought that with this (planetarium) if you could inspire kids when theyre young, they might grow up to be our next cutting-edge scientists inspire minds that look out in the universe.
But projectors at the time of the design cost upwards of $100,000, much more than the group could spend, forcing Rudolph and fellow designers E.M. Mac Gardiner and the late Edwin Ritchie to shelve plans for the planetarium.
Now, nearly a decade later, the stars will soon descend on the interior of the observatory and, with some help, into classrooms countywide.
Cooper and Vaughan said that with so few planetariums on this side of the water, the BPPA hopes the additional equipment will introduce a new generation to stargazing.
We want to attract some new blood, Cooper said. We want kids to see how exciting this is.