Planetarium and LU observatory renos complete, live astronomy class to return


By Kayla Perry

It is a “proud time” for Paul-Emilie Legault, Director of the Doran Planetarium and professor of 46 years at Laurentian.

Legault is proud because the renovations to the Doran Planetarium, as well as Laurentian observatory, have been completed.

Renovations began in October 2013, and were completed at the beginning of February.

In the planetarium, renovations include new flooring, re-upholstered chairs, newly painted walls and some updated computer programs. In the observatory, the motor which opened the observatory door and spins the dome was replaced, along with another round of fresh paint. The small room attached to the observatory was also renovated to serve as a warming room during the cold winter months, which Legault said are actually the “best time” to use the observatory.

In total, the renovations to both spaces cost approximately $20,000, money which came from both the Dean of Science and Engineering’s office as well as the Vice President’s office.

Along with renovations comes the return of the live General Astronomy course, which has not been taught live for four years, during which time it was available only through Envision.

The live course will initially be offered in spring 2014 when students will primarily spend classes in the Doran Planetarium, and again in September 2014, where in the past Legault has said class sizes have been much larger during the school year, at which point he divides the class into two, with alternating groups studying in the planetarium and a classroom.

Students in the course will also be offered visits to the observatory for non-mandatory sessions.

Legault acts as the director, producer, narrator and technician for the Planetarium and all of its shows, which are conducted approximately monthly for Sudbury grade or high schools at a charge.

Legault also said that the Planetarium will host free shows for any LU clubs or organizations at their request.

“In March the International Students are coming in – there might be other groups that are interested on campus, and it is free for them,” said Legault. “I have a variety of shows that are available, so they can choose what they are interested in.”

The Doran Planetarium, which is located in the basement of the Fraser building, is one of three on-campus planetariums Canada-wide, accompanied only by the Lockhard Planetarium at the University of Manitoba and the W. J. McCallion Planetarium at McMaster University.

Legault was at Laurentian for the opening of the Doran Planetarium – although a smaller planetarium had opened at LU in 1967, and Legault came to LU one year later, the actual Doran Planetarium opened later.

“I think it’s great,” said Ubi Wichoski, Chair of the Physics Department at LU, regarding the renovations. “(The planetarium) gives students a chance to visualize what they talk about in class, and the observatory lets them see the real thing.”

Although dates are not yet confirmed, Wichoski said he is hoping to organize an official re-opening ceremony for the end of February.