Blue Star Planetarium Comes to Bellingham Library
Marc Rouleau (left) with Steve Fowler, Children’s Librarian at Bellingham Public Library
story & photos by Marjorie Turner Hollman, Bulletin Contributing WriterThe huge blue cloth dome nearly filled the community room of the Bellingham Public Library on July 15, and children and parents were excited, but a little daunted by the size of the portable planetarium. Marc Rouleau, who has been in the planetarium field for eighteen years, quickly set the children at ease as they filed in to meet him. Megan Smith of Bellingham had an immediate question for Rouleau: “What is a super moon?” There had been reports in the news about a super moon having occurred just a few days before, and Rouleau immediately engaged the young Bellingham resident, explaining to her in understandable terms the relation of the earth and moon to each other.
According to EarthSky.org, the next super moon will take place August 10, and is defined as a full or new moon that occurs when the moon is at or near its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.
Another child brought up solar eclipses, and Rouleau’s face lit up as he talked about when the next solar eclipse would be and how solar and lunar eclipses are different. “I’ve been interested in astronomy since I was in the third grade,” Rouleau later explained. “And I’ve been in the planetarium field for the last eighteen years.”
The children eagerly scrambled inside the inflated planetarium. Rouleau then stated some ground rules, the most important of which was to stay seated so everyone could see. “Don’t lean on the walls of the planetarium,” he said. “It makes everything jiggly.”
The program began with a video, narrated by noted children’s entertainer Fred Penner. “In My Backyard” began with a mentioning of things any child would be familiar with: the falling leaves of autumn, snow in winter, changing seasons; it then introduced a rainbow, noting the order in which every rainbow’s colors are displayed. Spiders and animal prints provided an opportunity to talk about magnifying glasses and binoculars. The narrator talked about playing connect the dots, which logically led to a discussion about the various constellations of the night sky and the phases of the moon. The program wrapped up with a simple introduction to the planets of the solar system.
As the first group left, an older crowd, children grades 3–5, were lined up, anxious to see what was inside the Blue Star Planetarium. Rouleau headed back to work, eager to teach another group of children about the wonders of the night sky and the world around us.