First look at Tulare County's new planetarium

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Nearly a year after construction began the Tulare County Office of Education is almost ready to give students a new way to explore space and science.

When Tulare County leaders set out plans for a new planetarium and science center they reached for the stars.

"We would like students to leave with a bit inspiration," said Conan Palmer. "Some interest in science and astronomy."

The new building sits on a field that was once owned by the Liberty School District at the corner of Mooney Boulevard and Avenue 266 in Visalia. A mural of the solar system is painted on the front the building. Officials are counting on the image from NASA to attract visitors.

Tulare County Office of Education Robert Herman said, "We think that the fact it faces Mooney Boulevard it will certainly get a lot of attention. And interest people, of course teachers and students as well."

The new building features a nearly 87,000 square foot planetarium that has 70 seats for explorers who want to look up at the galaxy or weather up in the sky.

Palmer is the planetarium's supervisor. He's most excited about the planetarium's fully automated digital projector that has two lamps giving everyone the brightest image possible.

"More unique than that is this lens," said Palmer. "It is a custom lens that we had manufactured. And this lens is able to take the life from this projector and hit the entire 30 foot dome all at once."

The new science center also features a studio with state of the art editing equipment. Video projects are being produced to give students an interactive learning experience.

Palmer explained, "A student can come up and interact with what they see on the screen to learn about a particular topic to something similar where five students can approach it and all have work together."

Officials plan to open the doors at the new planetarium and science center to students and the public this fall.

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