Saturday, April 20

The sky’s the limit

Wednesday, May 22, 1996

Planetarium re-opens during Engineering Week for a series

of laser shows after being adopted as a student projectBy
Vinayaka Pandit

Daily Bruin Contributor

When they first turned on the projector, they expected a laser
light show. Instead, they were left in the smoky darkness of their

Electrical engineering students have spent the last three months
repairing the planetarium equipment. The building shutdown in 1992
because the astronomy department was unable to afford its

But this week, coinciding with Engineering Week, the planetarium
atop of the Math Sciences Building was reopened to offer students a
free chance to gaze skyward.

The road to the re-opening was one that began in January of this
year, when Laurie Liles, program administrator in the Department of
Physics and Astronomy, learned about a $500,000 grant Santa Monica
College received for its earthquake-damaged planetarium.

Not wanting to be outshined by another planetarium, Liles
immediately asked Mark Ross, a graduate electrical engineering
student, whether he could fix UCLA’s equipment, which the astronomy
department was unable to upkeep.

Ross convinced Alice Yip, the president of the undergraduate
engineering honors society, Eta Kappa Nu, to take on fixing the
planetarium as its project for Engineering Week 1996. About 10
honors society students, led by Ross, worked on the repairs for
more than three months.

"We put hundreds of hours into this," Ross said. "(In the
beginning) when you turned it on, smoke was coming out of the
projector and light bulbs were not turning on."

After the donation of speakers by Infiniti Corporation and the
purchase of an amplifier system by the physics and astronomy
department, the planetarium is now fully functioning. During
Engineering Week, the entire UCLA community can come hear students
explain the heavens above.

"I think that this is a good way to promote awareness of
astronomy," Yip said.

Varoujan Gorjian, a fourth-year astronomy graduate student,
added, "Astronomy is relevant to our everyday lives, for example,
the reason why days are shorter in winter. The planetarium will
give students the opportunity to see a night sky even though that
is usually not possible in a city like L.A."

Shows this week continue through Thursday, and organizers said
they hope to arrange regular shows in the future. In addition,
Astronomy 3 students will have the opportunity to experience the
planetarium during their first discussion section.

There are also plans to include laser shows.

For more information, call the astronomy division of the physics
and astronomy department at (310) 825-4434 or stop by the
information table in the Court of Sciences.

Photos by FRED HE/Daily Bruin

The planetarium equipment was repaired by electrical engineering
honors students after

it remained idle for

several years.

Top: Mark Ross, an electrical engineering graduate student,

prepares a sky show presented free to students through

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