TJC science center offers holiday hours, dome shows

The holiday season has arrived at the Tyler Junior College Center for Earth and Space Science featuring Hudnall Planetarium.

Center hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturdays. The center will only be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Dome shows with a holiday theme will be presented Tuesdays-Saturdays through Jan. 4, including:

• “Season of Light” (1 p.m.) – This show recounts the historical religious and cultural rituals practiced during the time of winter solstice – not only Christian and Jewish, but also Celtic, Nordic, Roman, Irish, Mexican and Hopi. It also takes a look at a few of the more light-hearted seasonal traditions: from gift giving and kissing under the mistletoe to the custom of decking the halls with greenery and candles. Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus all drop by as well.

• “Mystery of the Christmas Star” (2 p.m.) – Journey back more than 2000 years to Bethlehem for scientific explanation for the star the wise men followed to find the baby Jesus.

• “Let It Snow” (3 p.m.) – The 30-minute show features a new variety of festive music classics visually enhanced with animation, laser imagery, special effects, and all-dome scenery.

The TJC science center is located at 1411 E. Lake St. Tickets are $5 for children, seniors and students and $7 for adults. Day passes are also available which allow visitors to see all of that day’s shows plus the current exhibit, “Outreach to Space.” Parking is free.

Theater seating is limited, and it is recommended that tickets are purchased in advance at the front counter or online.

For the full schedule of shows, or to purchase tickets, go to sciencecenter.tjc.edu.

About the science center
Taking a cue from its humble beginnings in the 1960s, the center is now known as the TJC Earth and Space Science Center featuring Hudnall Planetarium.

From 1963 to 2010, TJC’s Hudnall Planetarium introduced countless East Texas schoolchildren to science and space. When the lights dimmed, all eyes turned skyward, and imaginations were sparked as the mysteries of the universe unfolded.

Following a massive expansion and reconstruction, the facility reopened in 2011 as the Center for Earth & Space Science Education at TJC and featured a 40-foot dome theater equipped with Digistar 4, then the latest in digital projection technology.

The center recently upgraded from Digistar4 to the Digitarium Aethos system, which uses 4K laser projection technology to create vibrant, immersive experiences in the 40-foot Hudnall Planetarium.

Nightshade NG software allows for displaying high-resolution imagery of earth, the night sky, solar system, and deep space beyond our galaxy.

“We’re proud to be the first science center in the state to have this system,” TJC Science Center Director Beau Hartweg said. “The first Digitarium Aethos system was installed in Eugene, Oregon, last year, so we are only the second center in the country to have it.”

The original planetarium was converted into an interactive area for visitors to enjoy rotating exhibits and plasma-screen displays with real-time video from NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

The center also includes an instructional/workshop space and a series of outdoor, educational plazas, including a 15-foot diameter, granite sundial.

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