Stars will shine once again at CSM planetarium

Four months after a fire-suppression sprinkler system was haphazardly triggered and flooded the College of San Mateo’s new planetarium, the refurbished facility is set to open its doors for a public viewing tonight.

The 3,300-square-foot planetarium, which first opened in January, shut down after a March 23 incident in which sprinklers along the ceiling inexplicably went off, spraying gallons of water throughout the interior and ruining the star projector and video equipment.

Astronomy professor Darryl Stanford was in the planetarium with about a half-dozen students when “the sprinklers went off without any alarm or warning.”

“We got soaked,” Stanford said. “We weren’t hurt, just wet.”

The incident caused an estimated $1.75 million in damage.

The planetarium reopened to students and faculty last month. Tonight marks the first time the public will have access to a regular stargazing show that occurs every second Friday of the month.

While it was closed, Stanford and other astronomy teachers used the campus theater and cafeteria for classes.

“I’m very excited because not only is it working and it’s not wet anymore, but I can teach my classes in there now,” he said.

The 100-seat facility and its 55-foot dome were built as part of a $207 million bond package approved by voters in 2001. It also accommodates the San Mateo County Astronomy Society and a program called “Project Stargaze,” which hosts elementary school classes.

“Astronomy is one of the best ways of bringing science to the public because there is such an awe to it,” said professor Mohsen Janatpour, CSM’s astronomy coordinator. “My goal has always been to constantly elevate the public’s appreciation of science, and the planetarium and the observatory are some of the best tools I can use.”

The cause of the incident is still under investigation, said CSM spokesman Mike Habeeb. Facility managers have since replaced the deluge sprinkler system with a standard one that uses fewer spigots at the same time.


Do you plan on visiting the CSM planetarium?

Share your comments below.

businessLocalScience & TechnologyScience and Technology

Just Posted

People take part in early voting for the November 5 election at City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Electionpalooza: SF school board recall will kick off a flurry of local races

‘It’s going to be a lot of elections and a lot of decisions for voters to make’

The fate of San Francisco nicotine giant Juul remains to be seen, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to allow certain flavored vape products on the market. <ins>(Jeenah Moon/New York Times)</ins>
How the vape king of teen nicotine addiction rose and fell in San Francisco

‘Hey, Juul, don’t let the door hit you on the way out’

Cabernet sauvignon grapes sat in a container after being crushed at Smith-Madrone Winery in St. Helena. (Courtesy Smith-Madrone Winery)
San Francisco’s ‘Champagne problems’ — Wine industry suffers supply chain woes

‘Everywhere you turn, things that were easy are no longer easy’

Glasses behind the bar at LUNA in the Mission District on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Glassware is just one of the many things restaurants have had trouble keeping in stock as supply chain problems ripple outward. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF restaurants face product shortages and skyrocketing costs

‘The supply chain crisis has impacted us in almost every way imaginable’

A student carries a protection shield to her next class as part of her school’s COVID-19 safety measures. (Courtesy Allison Shelley/Eduimages)
Projected K-12 drops in enrollment pose immediate upheaval and decade-long challenge

State forecasts 11.4% fewer students by 2031 — LA and Bay Area to be hit hardest

Most Read