Planetarium attendance highest in more than a decade

More than 10,000 visitors attended public shows this season at Youngstown State University’s Ward Beecher Planetarium, the most in more than a decade.

The planetarium hosted 10,062 people at 122 free Friday and Saturday shows from Sept. 22 through May 26, averaging 82 visitors per show. That’s up from 7,110 in the previous season and the first time since 2003-04 that the planetarium has topped 10,000 attendees.

In addition to the public shows, the planetarium put on 167 field trip programs, with 6,867 elementary school students throughout the region. So, in all, attendance at the public shows and field trips amounted to nearly 17,000 visitors.

Curt Spivey, planetarium engineer, attributed the increase to the planetarium’s new SkySkan Definiti Video system, featuring state-of-the-art pixel resolution and surround sound quality, that was installed last August. The

Other factors for the increase: the total solar eclipse last August helped spark interest in the planetarium; stepped up social media efforts; a new monthly spot on WFMJ Channel 21’s noon newscast; and the completion of Lincoln and Wick avenue improvements.

One of the more successful events of the year was the Harry Potter Weekend Sept. 29 and 30. Three shows were scheduled, and eventually three more were added. In all, nearly 600 people attended the Harry Potter shows. Another popular show was "One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure," a new Sesame Street-themed show that drew nearly 850 attendees.

The planetarium’s next season starts in September; the full schedule will be out in August. Among the popular shows that are coming back: Harry Potter Weekend, Oct. 5 and 6; “Nightlights,” Oct. 12 through 27; and “One World, One Sky” in September and in March. Several new shows will also premiere, including "Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond our Sun" on exoplanets in February 2019. And, the planetarium will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with "First and Farthest" in April 2019. Finally, "Rock The Dome Weekend" is Jan. 25 and 26.

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