The stars have aligned perfectly in Bremerton for National Astronomy Day as the long-awaited reopening of the Pacific Planetarium will bring back the public for the first time since COVID.
The planetarium was opened in 2011 in the former Bremerton Fire Station No. 1 building off Pacific Avenue and has been primarily used as a test-bed for new systems and programming software for Digitalis Education Solutions Inc., which set up shop in the building years earlier.
The facility had also played home to numerous small interactive shows demonstrating not just the company-developed programs, but the many wonders inside and outside our planet and galaxy. It’s an incredible display of complex work and simple usage as the program composed of continuous incoming outer space imagery and refined programming is all squeezed into the straightforward operations of a tablet and gaming controller.
“It’s so simple that kids can teach kids how to do it,” said Dave Cuomo, an education specialist for Digitalis who has found himself no more in his element than when giving presentations inside the small planetarium. “It makes it extremely easy to interact with the kids that come in here for shows so that they can even take the program for a test drive.”
Much of that interaction was lost in early 2020 when the pandemic forced a complete shutdown of the planetarium. Digitalis adapted and found a way to continue to share the wonders of the universe through Zoom presentations.
The digital shows became a regular for the company, but as the pandemic began to recede and fatigue from the virtual world started to set in, Cuomo knew it was time to work on reopening the facility’s doors. “The live stuff is definitely what most people are interested in now so when we announced it (back in August), there was a lot of activity right away from people that were very excited to have it back.”
A large part of the reopening has been credited to CEO Mark Robinson, who was brought onto the position a month before the news of the planetarium’s reawakening. Cuomo said that the interest had been there from those already involved, but Robinson’s entrance was the beginning of real-time efforts.
“I’ve always had a passion to help kids learn so my career path was leaning towards nonprofit when I had this opportunity to help this build into the community even more than it had,” Robinson said.
A total of 26 shows, 13 each day, are being held the final weekend of October. All 13 Oct. 28 shows are free in honor of National Astronomy Day, but tickets are still required for admission and are available online. The price for Oct. 29 shows is $8. A free peek is also planned for Halloween night.
It is unclear what the schedule will be from November onward, but staff said reopening weekend will help determine interest levels for future shows.