500,000 and beyond
Planetarium director celebrates, discusses visitor milestone
Since he started in 1982, Boyertown Planetarium Director Peter Detterline has been sharing his love of the stars with visitors throughout the district and beyond. The number of planetarium visitors since Detterline has been running the show has just breached 500,000 visitors.
On Thursday, Jan. 26, the 500,000th visitor walked through the door: 3-year-old Aidan Babcock. Detterline gifted him with a rotating planetarium for the home, the same one he uses.
Adian’s mother Jacquelyn says she couldn’t believe it. “At first I thought it was a hoax,” she said, explaining how she brought her two boys to the public show on Thursday and were waved over by Detterline as they were entering. He informed them Aidan was the 500,000th visitor.
“I couldn’t believe it. We actually came on Tuesday and he sold out. I promised the boys that we would go back on Thursday. We got there kind of early. It was a lot of fun, and it was our first time ever being there.” The home planetarium kit is now set up in the boys’ room and she says they love it.
“I had no clue this was even coming up until about 2 years ago; I keep records of attendance every year and I just noticed it. I’m thinking, my gosh – we’re going to hit 500,000 in a few years. And it’s going to happen tonight,” said Detterline early in the day on Jan. 26. “We’re about 40 people away right now.”
The planetarium, located at Boyertown Junior High East, seats about 75 people.
“Our best year was 17,000. Right now we’re around 11-12,000 [visitors] a year, as things change and shift,” said Detterline, adding how they service the elementary schools, the high school, and the community.
He describes the planetarium
as a facility that shows an accurate representation of the day and night sky.
“We can also show the sky over the moon if we want to, or any other place. It’s a place to learn about the universe, and for students to test some theories.
It’s also a nice lab activity.”
Detterline says he loves his job, and is grateful to have a district and a community so supportive of the program.
“You know what I love most about the planetarium? It’s teaching people about the stars and what’s going on in the sky. That’s what I love about it. And having them respond and seeing the looks, hearing their voices.” He said attendees get to locate things. “It’s all interactive. They get to do stuff too. – that’s all very exciting.”
There are about two public shows held each month, the rest are for specific groups or classes. Coming up — “Mysteries of Mars” will be held Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m.
“We have shows every single day to somebody here,” said Detterline. “All the shows are different; they’re custom made. They’re designed specifically for that group.”
A Scouting group, a college group, and a few Boyertown classes among those listed for scheduling private shows. The director doesn’t mind tailoring the shows for the groups. It something he’s actually come to enjoy.
“I love that part about it. That’s what makes it fun. We want these things to change. There’s always new information.” He continued, “I don’t like canned shows; we don’t do anything canned. There’s no program where we sit and listen to something. It’s all live, interactive – that’s the kind of program we like.”
The Boyertown Planetarium is one of only a handful in Berks County. Detterline says he feels blessed to work at a school district that has such vision to have a planetarium and to keep it in operation. He also noted the community’s support.
“That’s one of the best things about the job – just the people that come here in the community, the local community, and the way they support it. They’re the real stars in my book.”