University of Washington senior Justin Gailey

University of Washington senior Justin Gailey

Port Angeles alum brings the stars back to old campus

PORT ANGELES — When 2009 Port Angeles High School graduate Justin Gailey, 21, returned to his alma mater Thursday, he brought the stars with him in the back of his car.

Gailey, a senior physics and astronomy major at the University of Washington, arrived in Port Angeles with a kit that assembles into a digital planetarium with room for 35 — in less than a half-hour.

On Thursday, a group of 20 students from teacher John Henry’s introductory science class gathered around the balloon-tent planetarium, set up in the foyer of the school’s auditorium, and filled out questionnaires asking them about their interest in science.

From the outside, the big black-fabric, igloo-shaped room looks like a children’s bounce room, complete with an air blower to keep the dome inflated.

Students kicked off their shoes, then ducked through the opening and into outer space.

Daylight gone

Inside the dome, the lining shut out daylight, while the white interior sparkled with stars and planets.

Students were taken through an interactive tour of the solar system, then viewed the Milky Way galaxy and beyond into the larger universe.

The entire trip was led by Gailey using a computer and a suitcase-sized “digital starlab” that not only show can the night’s sky from the Earth’s point of view, but move the entire audience to any point in time and space the pilot wants to take them.

It also displays movies, videos and digital animations.

On Oct. 30, the University of Washington announced its mobile planetarium, funded through a NASA grant, was ready for “prime time.”

Port Angeles High School is only the second school the university has visited with its new mobile digital planetarium.

The plan is for the planetarium to visit at least one high school per week, Gailey said.

“We want to go to underfunded and under-represented schools in the Seattle area,” he said.

The university’s astronomy department also operates a digital planetarium on UW’s Seattle campus, where programs are offered for K-12 students, college students and members of the public.

Some barriers

However, the expense of bringing several classrooms of students to the planetarium can be a barrier for more geographically distant or financially struggling districts.

Gailey also discussed recent changes in astronomy such as the reclassification of Pluto, once thought to be a planet.

Once scientists got a better look with modern equipment, they discovered that the distant space rock isn’t what early researchers expected.

“It’s basically a big comet,” Gailey said.

Students exited the show discussing the science they saw and the idea of having science come to them for digital hands-on experiences.

“If we had more things like this with science, more kids would be interested. It’s easier for us to get involved,” said freshman Katelynn Jangula, 15.

Freshman Maria Soule, 14, said she was impressed with the star show and how the educational content was communicated.

“It was really good. It was presented in a way you could understand it,” Maria said.

At the end of the class, students were given a brief exam that asked them to rank six astronomical bodies in order of size: our solar system, the sun, Jupiter, the Andromeda Galaxy, a galaxy cluster and a nebula.

More classes were scheduled to visit the mobile planetarium today.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at [email protected]

More in News

Hospitals, schools comply with order

Hundreds from Peninsula agencies receive vaccine exemption

Dr. Tom Locke is the Jefferson County deputy health officer.
Mandates may be ‘new normal,’ deputy health officer says

Vaccination rates are rising across the state and nationally, the deputy public… Continue reading

Albert Haller Foundation awards $350,000

The Albert Haller Foundation has approved awards totaling $350,000 to nonprofit organizations… Continue reading

The Port of Port Townsend’s Herb Beck Marina in Quilcene was the subject of an outreach survey conducted this past summer. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Quilcene wants more of Herb Beck Marina

Changes needed, residents tell Port of Port Townsend

Sequim’s Russ Britton (507) jumps through the finish line after he completes the Run the Peninsula 5K on the Larry Scott Trail in Port Townsend on Saturday. Taran Johnson, (547) also from Sequim, races to the finish. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Hundreds of runners take on Larry Scott Trail

High-schoolers, locals among 264 live-event entrants

Forums to inform search for Peninsula College president

Public feedback must be submitted by Nov. 4

Stairclimbers, from left, Tim Davis, Margie Brueckner, Matt Aston and Esther McKellar of the Port Angeles Fire Department, practice ascending the Laurel Street Stairs above downtown Port Angeles on Saturday in preparation for next spring’s 31st annual LLS Firefighter Stairclimb on March 13 at the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle. The climb, a benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, requires firefighters and emergency personnel to make a timed ascent of the 788-foot skyscraper’s 69 flights of stairs to help fund cancer research. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Taking the stairs for a good cause

Stairclimbers, from left, Tim Davis, Margie Brueckner, Matt Aston and Esther McKellar… Continue reading

Most Read