Emera Astronomy Center Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony to be held Oct. 17 During Homecoming Weekend

The University of Maine’s Emera Astronomy Center will be dedicated in a ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 17, as part of UMaine’s Homecoming weekend.

The Emera Astronomy Center is the new home of the Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium and Observatory. It features a planetarium dome 33 feet in diameter equipped with a state-of-the-art projection system. Both the dome and the observatory’s 20-inch digital telescope are the largest in the state.

Architects and engineers from WBRC teamed with planetarium specialists from Kasian, a global architecture firm based in Canada, on the design of the facility; Nickerson & O’Day, a Maine-based construction firm, completed the construction.

Expected to take part in the dedication ceremony are Jeffery Mills, president and CEO of the University of Maine Foundation; UMaine President Susan Hunter; Alan Davenport, Emera Astronomy Center director; Bill Chomik, planetarium designer at Kasian; Karl Ward, president of Nickerson & O’Day; Rob Bennett, executive vice president and COO of Emera, Inc.; and representatives from WBRC also will be in attendance.

Following a ribbon cutting, tours of the facility will be given. The planetarium also will have an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, and a public star party will be held at the observatory that evening from 6 to 10 p.m., weather permitting.

The Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium and Observatory hosts thousands of children annually. The planetarium will continue to offer a changing line-up of family star shows or private showings for parties and school field trips. The center’s first public star show is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17. A full schedule is online.

The $5.2 million Emera Astronomy Center was made possible by a $3.2 million donation from an anonymous donor, who first proposed the astronomy facility to enhance the viewing of the night sky, and a $1 million gift came from Emera Inc., the parent company of Emera Maine.

According to President Hunter, the Emera Astronomy Center is the culmination of the visions of the anonymous donors to enhance the viewing of the night sky and Emera, a leader in the energy field, to make the dream of building the state’s largest and most energy-efficient planetarium and automated telescope a reality.

The Emera Astronomy Center includes innovative exterior lighting designed to help preserve the dark-sky critical to enhanced stargazing. It is heated and cooled with geothermal heat pumps — the first building at UMaine to benefit from this energy-efficient electric technology.

As part of UMaine’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the center will enhance the university’s role in outreach to K–12 students and promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. STEM education research has been designated as one of UMaine’s Signature Programs. The planetarium and observatory will complement the many other efforts at UMaine to attract students to scientific disciplines by inspiring children — and all those who are children at heart — about the science of astronomy.

“The new Emera Astronomy Center’s programs will extend UMaine’s already deep commitment to education in STEM fields. The center’s planetarium and observatory complement each other to excite students’ imagination and advance their knowledge,” says Emily Haddad, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The center has already sparked interest from Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), a student organization focused on the exploration and development of space.

More information about the Emera Astronomy Center is online. To RSVP to the dedication ceremony or to request a disability accommodation, contact Sarah Penley, 207.581.1159.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747