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Spacing Out at Bay Area Museum

August 13, 2000

An 86,000-square-foot science center focusing on astronomy, with what's described as a cutting-edge planetarium, debuts Saturday in the hills near Oakland. The facility replaces an observatory and planetarium, about 10 minutes away, that dates to 1915.

Chabot (pronounced sha-BO) Space & Science Center, on 13 acres of East Bay parkland, will open with two refractor telescopes for public use: an 8-inch and a 20-inch. "Sometime next year," a spokeswoman said, a 36-inch reflector telescope, said to be one of the largest available to the public anywhere, is expected to be ready for use.

The 240-seat planetarium's equipment is a twin of the one in the Frederick Phineas & Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space, which opened in February in New York City. The Zeiss Universarium VIII star ball, using fiber-optic technology, can project more than 9,000 "stars"; lasers add special effects. Other facilities: a dome-screen movie theater and extensive exhibits, including a mock-up of the International Space Station.

The museum is open daily; hours vary, extending to 9:45 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $8 adults, $5.50 ages 4 to 12; extra charges apply for the planetarium and theater. Tel. (510) 530-3480, Internet http://www.chabotspace.org.

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