Space fans can get a rare peek inside Augustana College’s John Deere Planetarium at their annual Fall Open House on Saturday, November 5 from 7-8:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. The planetarium is located at 820 38th Street in Rock Island and will feature indoor and outdoor programs from planetarium director Dr. Lee Carkner.
The Fryxell Geology Museum will also be open to the public. Its highlights include a wall of glowing, florescent rocks, a cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull and a complete 22-foot-long skeleton of a Cryolophosaurus, a large crested carnivorous dinosaur discovered in Antarctica by Dr. William Hammer of Augustana.
The planetarium has been holding events since it first opened in 1969. Dr. Carkner joined the faculty in 1999 and his enthusiasm for the job and the open houses hasn’t wavered. He’s excited about sharing out of this world views with members of the public.
“We’re going to have a planetarium show in our fulldome video planetarium room, which has music and narration and images, so that’s a cool experience. We’ll have displays and exhibits open both here and in the Fryxell Geology Museum, where they have dinosaurs, glow in the dark rocks and cool fossils. We’ll also have our telescopes open and we’re hoping to get some good views of the moon, Jupiter and Saturn, which will all be prominent in the sky on Saturday.”
This open house is a rare opportunity for the public to see inside the planetarium. It’s mostly used by Augustana students and for field trips by school groups. “We are open to the public usually once in the fall and once in the spring,” says Carkner. “Then in December we’ll have our Christmas show, which is available to the public.”
Carkner hopes the public is as excited as he is about the open house. “We have a cool collection of space memorabilia, we have a cool collection of fossils and geology samples, we’ve got cool planetarium shows and it’s always fun to take a look at things like the moon or Jupiter and Saturn through a telescope. You can see pictures of them on the internet but it’s not quite the same as looking at them for yourself.”
Observation areas are unheated, so visitors are asked to dress appropriately.