500,000 and be­yond

Plan­e­tar­ium di­rec­tor cel­e­brates, dis­cusses vis­i­tor mile­stone

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Re­becca Blan­chard rblan­chard@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @boy­er­town­times on Twit­ter

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.”

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