ORONO – The astronomy center located on the campus of the University of Maine officially relaunched itself as the Versant Power Astronomy Center. The facility regularly hosts shows related to science and space exploration for all ages, as well as music shows and special presentations and events. The Versant Power Astronomy Center is also a resource for students of the University of Maine and area grade school-aged students with special programs formatted for school visits during the academic year.
“Science education is such a critical component of STEM education, and in order to learn some of the more fascinating aspects of science, technology, and outer space, it certainly helps to start with a foundation of curiosity and organic interest in the topic,” said University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “The Versant Power Astronomy Center establishes that curiosity and interest not just at a young age with programming suited to kids, but it furthers college students’ and adults’ curiosity as well. This is a tremendous resource for this campus, and the investment being made by Versant Power is a solid investment in education for all ages.”
The new name reflects the change in name of the utility serving Eastern and Northern Maine. Previously, the astronomy center was named the Emera Maine Astronomy Center. With Emera’s sale last year, Versant Power is continuing the commitment made to the Astronomy Center, allowing for a robust schedule of programming throughout the year for the campus and the surrounding communities.
“Education is extremely important to our company,” said John Flynn, president of Versant Power. “When individuals want to further their education in any way, it becomes a lot more likely to happen if resources are available to meet their needs. The Versant Power Astronomy Center is versatile, comfortable, state-of-the-art, and — in short — impressive. We are proud to be a part of this facility and to have our name attached to it for years to come.”
The $5.2 million center was originally made possible by a $3.2 million anonymous gift in 2012, part of UMaine’s $208 million Vision for Tomorrow comprehensive campaign led by the University of Maine Foundation. Construction finished in 2014 and the Emera Astronomy Center opened to the public that same year. The center’s technology received a more than $200,000 upgrade in July 2020 with continued support from the same anonymous donor.
“Astronomy and space exploration have limitless possibilities,” said Sarah McPartland-Good of the University of Maine Foundation. “The University of Maine Foundation works with a donor who wanted to remain anonymous, but wanted to open more doors to those possibilities for students of this campus, and for residents and visitors of surrounding communities. That anonymous gift helped make this center possible, and helped make today possible. The UMaine Foundation would also like to acknowledge Versant Power, and the historical gift by Emera, Inc. to name the Center.”
Planetarium programs are held in the dome section of the facility, which seats 50 people per show. In honor of the relaunch, a special slate of programming has been established for the weekend. “We Are Astronomers” is scheduled for Friday nights at 7 pm. which provides a tour of contemporary astronomy using beautiful 360-degree full dome imagery. Additional scheduling for the relaunch weekend, University of Maine’s Welcome Weekend at the end of August or regular programming open to the public can be found at astro.umaine.edu.
Tickets for planetarium programs are $7 for adults, $6 for University of Maine students/veterans/senior citizens and $5 for kids 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased at the door, by calling 207-581-1341 or online at astro.umaine.edu.