Since Hurricane Maria in September 2017, the Planetarium in Ferre Science Park has been closed.
This was the the only public planetarium in Puerto Rico. By mainland standards, Puerto Rico's population would suggest 6 such facilities.
Ticket receipts in August 2017, the last full month of operations, were over $180k.
Staff has been able to mitigate water and mold problems, as well as replace damaged components to the sound system.
With the majority of the staff transferred to other municipal projects in Bayamon after the planetarium closure, getting the planetarium open again would create some new employment possibilities.
The remaining piece to getting the planetarium open again is the projection system. The computers running it were damaged by power surges during the restoration of the electrical grid, and need to be replaced. The Konica/Minolta projector needs to be refurbished or replaced. We are currently researching our best options with Konica/ Minolta.
We want to note that The Férre Science park operates as part of the Bayamon municipal government, and we will will need to conform with existing governmental procedures in order to contribute in the way we hope. We are trying to be careful to use the phrase "pending auhorization" to describe our relationship with this project.
The Puerto Rico Astronomical Society (PRAS) is constructing a public access observatory in partnership with Ana Mendez University (formerly Universidad Metropolitan) in San Juan (the largest population center).
The general public will be able to attend viewing nights and classes to learn about using telescopes, and undertake observing and astrophotography projects.
As is often the case, the observatory site choice is caught between 2 opposites: put it in a remote place to obtain dark skies and the best observing conditions, or put it in a population center, where it can get accessed by a lot more people. For the PRAS, the choice is obvious: pick the best spot in San Juan, the biggest city on the island. (San Juan, by the way, is the 35th largest metropolitan population in North America, more than Las Vegas, Cinncinnati, or Kansas City.)
This project was well under way, and the site, telescopes, and equipment partially acquired, when Maria struck. Since that time, it's been stalled, a low-priority for time, work, materials, and capital.
The site is suitable for a small observatory building, with plenty of safe parking, good views of the night sky down to about 45 degrees above the horizon in all directions, access to restrooms, a small cafe and classrooms nearby, and a large paved area for larger groups to spill onto as needed for special events. The site was previously occupied by a semi-permanent portable building, so will be relatively straightforward to reoccupy.
We are hopeful that we can incorporate a solar electricity demonstration project into the design of the planetarium.
The site, as seen in the first 2 photos, is directly behind Eric (in the red shirt), between Eric & the single royal palm near the classrooms, and is about 5 meters by 20 meters. It's the upper shelf - the lower area is parking and occasional floodplain.
AEwPR has already obtained and shipped a Meade LX-200 10 inch computerized telescope and accessories to the PRAS. This telescope is likely to become the principal telescope of the GGOO.
We've chosen to focus on 2 very specific projects at this time.
These projects were chosen by our Puerto Rican associates because they're "low-hanging fruit" - prior to Maria, they were already underway. It's reasonably clear what to do, and relatively straightforward to establish a budget and specific goals.
We certainly hope this AEwPR fundraising effort has "legs", and is able to take additional high-impact projects after these.
As our projects get underway, we prioritize:
Working WITH, not FOR, Puerto Rico.
Locals make decisions and perform work at fair wages.
Creating future resilience through solar power