It was 10 years ago when a modest extension to Building X on Santa Fe College’s campus in Gainesville, FL finally received a name and became an ‘immersive learning laboratory’ for thousands of area residents. That building is the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium and it was named in honor of the mother of John M. Pla, one of the planetarium’s benefactors. The planetarium was dedicated in a formal ceremony on September 8, 2006 to a host of distinguished guests. Santa Fe College president, Dr. Jackson Sasser, gave the opening remarks after which Mr. James Davis gave a greeting from the Board of Trustees and welcomed the honored guests. The Kika Silva Pla Planetarium was made possible by a generous donation of John M. Pla and his wife Amy Howard. This donation made on behalf of the Pla family was in recognition of his mother Kika Silva Pla’s commitment to education and passion for social justice and civic engagement. The family’s generosity, along with additional support from a special federal appropriation arranged by Congressman Cliff Stearns, make possible the only planetarium in North Central Florida.
The dream of a state-of-the-art planetarium on the northwest campus of Santa Fe College began long before the first show was performed under its dome. “Sally Hoffman PhD. was a Professor of Astronomy and Physical Sciences here at Santa Fe College for 40 continuous years from 1974 until her passing in December 2014”, says James Albury, planetarium coordinator. James continues, “Although funding the planetarium was a challenge early on, things eventually turned out for the best. It was Sally’s goal to have a state-of-the-art planetarium built on the Santa Fe College campus, and she was instrumental in the development of the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium which now serves the College and all of the Gainesville area.”
Since 2006, the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium has been dedicated to enriching the learning environment of Santa Fe College students and our community. The planetarium employs the latest educationally innovative technology in a unique immersive-learning environment for Santa Fe College and University of Florida students, public and private school children, community groups, and the public of North Central Florida.
“We’re so excited about this particular anniversary, because not only is it the planetarium’s 10th anniversary, but Santa Fe College, named the number one college in the nation by the Aspen Institute, is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary! It’s as if the stars aligned perfectly for this one!”, remarked Albury. The planetarium is going to post archival photos and video on its Facebook page throughout the month, to give the community a look at the history of this gem in the crown of Santa Fe College.
To celebrate this milestone in the planetarium’s history, a Prismatic Magic full-dome laser projection system is being temporarily installed for “LaserFest”; a four-day festival at the planetarium where there will be educational and musical laser shows presented. “Usually only the big planetariums like the ones in Chicago, Miami or New York have laser shows, but with the advances in laser technology, more moderate-sized planetariums like ours can now experience the same amazing imagery”, added Albury.
LaserFest will be held on Thursday, September 29 thru Sunday, October 2, 2016 and will feature educational programs such as “Lasers in Space” and “Laser Safari” as well as the traditional music laser shows “Laser Beatles“, “Laser Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon” and “Laser Led Zeppelin” just to name a few.Ticket prices are $7.00 per person for the matinee showings and $10.00 per person for the evening showings. Albury also stated, “Since this is the first time we’ve had a laser system in our planetarium, we’re expecting the event to be quite popular, so we’re encouraging guests to purchase their tickets online in advance. If a show sells out early, we’ll add another one later on in the evening, if possible. We really want as many people as possible to experience this special event”.
To purchase tickets, visit the planetarium’s website http://www.sfcollege.edu/planetarium. For more information about the planetarium and the “LaserFest” celebration, contact James C. Albury, planetarium coordinator at 352-395-5381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.