Patrick Beatie, with the help of his wife, hosts free public planetarium shows at Bellevue College twice each month, which brings viewers into the realm of stars and planets, allowing them to learn about the functions, lives and vastness of celestial bodies.
“It’s so cloudy here we never get to see the stars, but at the planetarium we can see the stars any time,” said Patricia Inverso, an astronomy instructor at BC.
“You can even hear it pouring down rain outside and you can still see the stars,” she said.
“With this planetarium we can go to any place on the surface of the earth and see the stars. We have a lot of international students here, and they might be a little homesick, and so if they tell me what city they’re from and of what latitude they lived at, I can show them a familiar sky.”
Beatie has a background in science, with a particular interest in geology and astronomy, but studied an array of science and math subjects while in school. He has a Master’s degree in public administration, a work history that includes the navy and being an instructor, and now spends quite a bit of his time after retiring putting on planetarium showings for students of all ages and guests from around the area.
Beatie said that he began to really “get involved in astronomy” while at BC, which he first came to in order to take some review geology classes after retiring. The second geology class he took was taught by Rob Viens, who is now dean of the math and science department. In a conversation with Beatie, he ended up saying that he had a geology lab that needed some work—it had been a chemistry lab prior and needed to be converted—which Beatie, who has a knack for building and repairing things, offered to help with.
The main product of their labor is still on display and in use on campus, a 16-inch Meade telescope located in the observatory which rotates around, allowing viewers to see the night sky from various vantage points.
Beatie then explained that he took two astronomy classes at BC around that time, did a lot of independent study and filled a position that opened up. As a result he has been the lead planetarium show host and outreach coordinator.
“My wife helps me,” he said. “She does the ushering and helping people get seated, and has a comment from time to time.” He added that she, described as an exceptional violinist, on occasion brings one of her student quartets to play in the planetarium before or after the show.
Beatie would like to express his gratitude to the dedicated individuals within the astronomy department whom he has worked with and continues to work with.
The collection of planetarium shows has increased over the years, as has the interest by the audience. The room boasts a Digistar 3, “one of the best” digital planetarium systems available, Beatie said. “It will do up to 3 billion computations per second, and they’re of course what gives you pictures on the ceiling.”
Beatie explained that about a year ago, “we moved from the end of the month, the last Friday of the month, to two Fridays a month.” They offer a series of shows that build on one another:
“Violent Universe” and “Black Holes,” then “The Little Star that Could” (a children’s show played earlier in the evening), “New Horizons” and “Wonders of the Universe,” followed by “Stars” and “The Secret Lives of Stars.”
There are two separate showings offered each night. The first begins at 7 p.m. and the second at 8:30 p.m.
The upcoming shows for spring quarter are scheduled to be on May 15, May 29, June 12 and June 26.
Tickets are free, but must be reserved beforehand online at www.brownpapertickets.com by searching for “Bellevue Planetarium.”