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Golden Birthday: Barlow Planetarium

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The Barlow Planetarium, seated in the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, will celebrate its 20th anniversary of sharing science with communities in the Fox Valley and beyond on March 20.

Director Alan Peche says the planetarium has brought nearly 750,000 people in its doors since it opened in 1998. It’s the largest university planetarium in the UW System, and is ranked with top planetariums in the world. An impressive feat, he says, for its small-town Menasha location.

“We couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this sort of community,” Peche says, referring to the audiences in surrounding regions like Green Bay, Fond du Lac and Sheboygan. “When we reach an audience 90 minutes away, we add possibility that students don’t always have in their communities.”barlow_logo-184x300

Peche plans to commemorate the 20th anniversary with two public all-day events on March 24 and 25, celebrating the teachers, community members and donors who made the planetarium possible. Peche also plans to unveil the planetarium’s new projection system, which is currently in the early planning phase, to show viewers what to expect once implementation is complete.

“We’re going to show off what the star projector is capable of,” Peche says, “from flying through the stars with a game controller to dissecting a human skeleton on a dome that’s like a mini-IMAX theater.”

Peche says that as the planetarium enters its 20th decade, the goal remains to cultivate lifelong interests in the sciences, starting at Barlow and continuing in the natural night sky.

“We want to keep sharing the wonders of the universe for as long as possible,” Peche says. “Why science is powerful, why space flight is cool, why you should know [about astronomy], why you should search beyond the horizons. Often planetariums are part of the artificial sky that we forgot what’s around our door, and Northeast Wisconsin has great skies. We want to get people excited.”

For more information about the 20th anniversary event and ticket info, visit uwfox.uwc.edu/barlow-planetarium. 

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