Homeq and aQ&A session with Alex McLean, Part-time planetarium educator

Q&A session with Alex McLean, Part-time planetarium educator

Interview and photo by Bernice Trieu

Q: Have you been a student at TJC before, and if you were, what was your major?
A: Yes, I’ve been a student at TJC before, and I was a music major.

Q: What does the TJC Earth and Science Center provide?
A: It provides entertainment, education, and our planetarium dome is a 40-foot diameter screen that wraps around.

Q: Do TJC students come here a lot or do you get more outside visitors?
A: Here and there. It’s more of a majority from the surrounding community. But here and there we do get students from TJC to come here because once in a while, TJC professors will assign extra credit and have the TJC students come to watch an exhibit.

Q: When is the Earth and Science Center the busiest?
A: There really is no answer for that, but throughout the days of the week, Saturdays are the busiest days for us. The busiest time is when we do field trips.

Q: What schools come to see the dome the most?
A: All ages really, but mostly elementary students come see us the most.

Q: What do you teach here?
A: We teach astronomy. We teach everything here from earth sciences to astronomy. For example, we teach folks about the constellations, stars, and things that are visible in the night sky. We also do a planet tour where we fly around our planets and talk about them all in the planetarium dome.

Q: Was the TJC Earth and Science Center open during summer?
A: Yes, we’re open generally the whole year. There’s only one or two weeks that we close and that’s the fall of refresh that we just finished actually.

Q: What is the “fall of refresh?”
A: That is when we switch out our exhibit area. Yes, we do switch out our exhibits and shows because we’re not only a planetarium dome. We have our exhibits,
which are interactive for the kids and our gift shop. Due to COVID-19, both our exhibits and gift shop are closed. We do let people in the dome, but we can only allow 20 people instead of 85, which is how many seats it can hold total.

Q: What is one thing you want students to take away from being in the Earth and Science Center?
A: I would say that the study of astronomy and space is much more relevant than a lot of people would realize. For example, normal objects like a hair dryer or things that go in your body, for instance, to keep your heart beating, that all came from research and space. That’s always one of the big things I try to emphasize.

Q: Since you work at an Earth and Science Center, are you good at math or science at all?
A: I am not technically an astronomer, but I do consider myself a stargazer. I consider myself pretty good at explaining the complex stuff down to a level where most folks understand.

Q: Do you own a telescope to stargaze?
A: No, I do not, but I do own binoculars, which are perfect for beginner stargazers. They are much easier and cheaper.

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