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Astronomy and the Planetarium


Space Exploration Experience

Jackie spent 20 years working for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He started in 1977 on the Voyager Project, two amazing space probes that explored much of the Solar System. Voyager 1 explored the systems of Jupiter and Saturn while Voyager 2's trajectory allowed it to vist Uranus and Neptune after flying by Jupiter and Saturn.

Planetarium Experience

Jackie's love of the planetarium began when he visited Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles on a high school science club field trip. Years later, while studying astronomy at the University of Southern California, he got a part-time job as a tour guide there and he later became the tour guide supervisor. Jackie has found an excuse to get his classes into a planetarium whenever he can and as a result, has operated a number of different kinds of planetaria.

University of Washington Planetarium


In 2011, Jackie began volunteering as a planetarium lecturer for the University of Washington Department of Astronomy. They give free shows to any school group or public organization that request one. A couple times a month, Jackie gave shows to groups from age 3 on up. He considers those shows to be very important, rewarding experiences. About the planetarium experience, Jackie says,


"I consider the planetarium experience very special and vital, both to the general public and those immersed in the practice of research in the sciences. Being able to replicate the human experience of the night time sky and to use that as a backdrop to connect modern science with people and cultures throughout time is priceless. I have seen countless people of all ages leave my planetarium experiences touched for all time."


The 30-foot dome makes for an ideal teaching space and hundreds of students of all ages have had the chance to have a real storytelling experience under the simulated night time sky, the way stories have been shared for thousands of years.


The UW planetarium has been equiped with the Microsoft Research program World Wide Telescope. Using digital projection, the audience can be taken anywhere in the known universe using real data and real photos. It is an amazing tool that lets audiences go anywhere in the known universe! And anyone can use the WWT on their desktop computer for free!


Unfortunately, the WWT experience does not mimic the natural look of the real night-time sky. Jackie stopped giving shows when the Astronomy Department choose not to repair the planetarium projector and elected to give all programs with the WWT computer based projection system. Jackie felt that this detracted from the planetarium's main purpose - to connect people with the nighttime sky as seen from Earth. He used to use WWT in his programs, but he would always return to the planetarium projector to give audiences that experience of what it would be like if the night time sky wasn't so bright. How different our lives would be if we could see the splendor of the real nightime sky every night. WWT appeals to the video game culture, but there should be more to the planetarium experience than that.

After Voyager 2 Saturn Encounter, Jackie began work on the Galileo Project, a Voyager-like spacecraft that was sent back to Jupiter to orbit and collect detailed data. After Galileo began its orbital operations, Jackie worked on the Space Station Program, the Mars Observer Mission, and then spent a 5 years on the Earth-orbiting satellite mission known as the Ocean Topography Experiment (TOPEX). On TOPEX he led the Mission Planning and Sequencing Team.


After TOPEX, Jackie decided that education rather than engineering was his passion. He left JPL to focus on his doctoral program, but soon was was invited to return as the Educational Outreach Manager for the Pluto Express PreProject, the Europa Orbiter, and Solar Probe missions. Together they were called the Ice and Fire Preprojects.  These were the study missions that developed the plans that later became real and resulted in the New Horizons mission to Pluto, which launced on January 19, 2006. The Europa Orbiter and Solar Probe missions are still under development. As Education Outreach Manager, Jackie and Richard Shope trained thousands of educators in progressive teaching techniques.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA

Santa Monica College Planetarium,

Los Angeles, CA

Beverly Hills High School Planetarium, Beverly Hills, CA

University of Washington Planetarium,


incredible background image (c) 2015 Steve Cooperman

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