HEAVENLY SCREENING COMING SOON : PALMDALE DISTRICT'S PLANETARIUM PROJECT NEARING COMPLETION.
Four years after it was built, Palmdale School District's planetarium is getting the equipment that will let it fulfill its intended role.
Workers put the finishing touches Tuesday on a 40-foot-wide dome-shaped projection screen inside the planetarium building.
Equipment still left to be installed include the main projector, expected to arrive in October or November, ancillary projectors, the sound system and console instruments.
Officials hope to open the planetarium by early next year.
``The sky here is not one where you can observe the stars. There's too much light and smog and particles,'' said Faye Choate, district educational technologist and planetarium committee member. ``The intent was to be able to provide that true night sky for the kids and the community. When you are in the aerospace arena, astronomy becomes pretty important for our kids to understand.''
The planetarium building was finished in January 1993 as part of a $3.6 million Cactus School renovation project, which was financed by state funds, but completing the planetarium has been stalled for lack of funding.
The renovation construction funding could not be used for purchasing the projection equipment and other gear needed to put on planetarium shows depicting the motions of the sun, moon, planets and stars.
Efforts to complete the planetarium were slowed by tight finances, and there was no extra money to complete the project, officials said.
To help raise money, the district has been selling planetarium seats in the 114-seat facility at $250 a seat. So far, 42 seats have been sold. Donors' names will be inscribed on plates on the back of the chairs, officials said.
The idea for the planetarium began about a decade ago to eliminate busing Palmdale students more than 60 miles each way to the Griffith Park Observatory.
With the help of community donations and $150,000 in one-time state funds, the board in November approved paying $366,625 to Pennsylvania-based Spitz Inc. for the dome and other instruments.
While awaiting money to install the planetarium gear, the building had been used for a classroom and for meetings, officials said.
Photo: (1--Ran in SAC and AV--color in AV only) Workers put finishing touches on a 40-foot-wide dome-shaped projection screen Tuesday at the Palmdale School District's planetarium.
(2--Ran in SC and AV--color in AV only) Planetarium panel members Debra Hollis, left, and Faye Choate have been working to give area pupils an enhanced look at the night sky.
Jeff Goldwater/Daily News