Tucked away in the outskirts of Downtown Bremerton sits the old Fire Station 1 at 817 Pacific Ave. The unassuming blue building does not stand out among its neighbors, Uptown Mercantile & Marketplace and Red Cross, but it houses one of the most exciting and educational opportunities this side of the sound: the Pacific Planetarium.
“Nowhere else in Kitsap County can you feel like you're literally standing on the Moon or flying around Saturn,” said Arthur Bogard, director of the Pacific Planetarium and frequent presenter. “It's nearly impossible to describe the experience, and even if you've been to a planetarium in the past, we think you're going to be surprised by how we have adapted new technologies into the dome.”
Digitalis Education Solutions, Inc., the local company behind the planetarium, is also a noteworthy contributor. The growing tech company builds planetarium software, hardware and inflatable domes that further astronomy education all over the world. Their hardware and software is even utilized by another local planetarium at the Pacific Science Center.
“While we have been designing and building planetariums in Bremerton for about ten years, we will be celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Pacific Planetarium's opening this August,” said Bogard. “The Pacific Planetarium is a labor of love for Digitalis employees.”
The converted fire station houses an impressive twenty foot wide fiberglass dome where Olympic College student and planetarium educator Haley Redinger can take guests on a journey through time and space. Planets, moons, stars, and even our own Milky Way Galaxy can all be visited in the three-dimensional immersive environment being projected onto the dome.
Redinger has been a member of the physics program at Olympic College since winter quarter 2016. She aims to take her talents to the University of Washington in fall as an undergraduate student in astronomy and physics. Her love of science started early and continued through to college where she has even had an internship at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“I hope to go to UW [University of Washington] for my bachelor's, then continue for a doctorate. I'd like to be able to teach college level physics and astronomy as well as some sort of research in my field,” said Redinger.
With that level of passion for science, it is hard for the Pacific Planetarium to not succeed in its mission to both educate and entertain members of the community.
“It appeals to all ages and there is so much to discover in the universe. Maybe we can inspire future scientists to continue to strive for more understanding,” Redinger continued.
Inspiration is an easy find when the planetarium gives an astronaut's-eye view of the galaxy. Fly to Mars to marvel at Olympus Mons, the volcano two and a half times as tall as Mount Everest, or go to Saturn to see the shadows of its rings. Observe space phenomena such as eclipses and transits from multiple perspectives, on and off the earth, to get real insight into what is actually happening.
This summer the planetarium is pushing a new marketing plan, along with a new website and more hours, in an effort to increase attendance: “Our new website has received positive feedback, and we hope to make purchasing tickets online more convenient over the summer. We're continuing to throw all of our ideas against the wall to see what sticks,” Bogard said.
When it comes to hours of operation, Redinger said that “this summer we are open every Friday and Sunday ... If all goes well and we see an increase in popularity, we may be able to offer more shows throughout the rest of the year.”
In addition to more hours, Bogard says that they've “got some adult-oriented programming upcoming and are exploring some new topics we've never touched on in the past.”
All of their show times and information can be found on their website, http://PacificPlanetarium.com, and Facebook page http://FB.com/PacificPlanetarium.