About the Cernan Earth and Space Center
- March 14, 1934: Eugene A. Cernan was born at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Chicago and was raised in the suburbs of Bellwood and Maywood.
- 1952: Gene Cernan graduated from Proviso East High School.
- December 14, 1972: Captain Gene Cernan was the last person to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
- 1973: Triton College was booming with high enrollment and lots of young people in the area.
- May 23, 1974: Original Cernan Earth and Space Center opened on the Triton College campus, with Captain Cernan and his mother in attendance for the dedication. Captain Cernan was not involved in the planning and development of the Earth and Space Center that bears his name. Linton Pitluga was the first Director of the Space Center. Once the facility had been operational for a few years, Captain Cernan became very supportive of the Space Center because he shared the same ideals as the mission of the institution: To inspire dreams and goals for a new generation of astronauts and explorers of all kinds.
- January 12, 1985: New Cernan Earth and Space Center building dedicated with Captain Cernan in attendance. Steve Bishop was Director of the Cernan Center at this time.
- January 1985: Premiere of first Cinema 360 spherical projection film The Space Shuttle: an American Adventure in the new Cernan Earth and Space Center.
- January 1986: Bart Benjamin is named Director of the Cernan Earth and Space Center.
- February 23, 1991: Captain Cernan speaks at the Big Event for Cernan Center members and guests. Over the years, this annual speakers program featured such luminaries as astronauts Alan Bean, Bruce McCandless, Janice Voss, and Story Musgrave as well as scientific leaders in the areas of astronomy, space history, paleontology and more.
- October 12, 1995: Captain Cernan was the distinguished guest at a Triton College Foundation event.
- November 11-12, 1997: Captain Cernan was honored at the Annual Triton College Foundation President's Reception.
- December 13-14, 1999: On the 27th anniversary of his last step on the Moon, Captain Cernan launched his new book Last Man on the Moon with a large book signing event. During the two day event, Captain Cernan greeted visitors and signed more than 950 books. Of special note was his generosity of time with people. He would chat and take pictures with anyone who asked.
- November 15, 2012: While in Chicago on other business, Gene Cernan visited Triton College and participated in a VIP Breakfast followed by an assembly for school children in Triton College’s Auditorium.
- June 8, 2014: Release of the documentary film Last Man on the Moon about the life and recollections of Astronaut Gene Cernan.
- April 2015: The Konica-Minolta Super MediaGlobe II fulldome digital projector is installed in the Cernan Center Planetarium opening up new capabilities for programming about astronomy and space exploration along with other science, history and more.
- April 2015: Bart Benjamin retired after 31 years at the Cernan Earth and Space Center, 29 as Director.
- September 2015: New carpet, seats and acoustic panels were installed in the Cernan Center Planetarium.
- September 2015: Kris McCall steps in to become Director of the Cernan Center.
- January 2016: All planetarium programming transition to the fulldome digital projection system.
- May 24, 2016: Community members come out for the relaunch ceremony of the newly renovated Cernan Center, featuring a rocket launch.
- January 16, 2017: Captain Gene Cernan passes away in Houston, TX after a lengthy illness.
At its height in the early 1990s, attendance at the Cernan Earth and Space Center at Triton College was approximately 60,000 people per year. Visiting school groups, Triton College classes, and the general public were inspired and educated through planetarium programs and Cinema 360 hemispheric films. Programs covered a variety of topics from exploring the planets in our solar system and what’s visible in the current night sky to The Space Shuttle: an American Adventure and The Great Barrier Reef.
By 2015, attendance had declined to just 10,000 people per year, but with the installation of fulldome digital projection technology in April 2015 and the increased capabilities and flexibility of the software, attendance jumped to 11,000 in 2016. Dramatic new programs, comparable to those offered in larger planetariums, and an increase in the number of public programs offered provide more opportunities for residents of the Western Suburbs and across the Chicagoland area to develop a greater awareness, understanding, and appreciation for the world and the universe that surrounds us.
Here are the seven Gene Cernan visits to CESC/Triton College that were tabulated a while back:
- May 23, 1974: Original CESC dedication/speaker
- January 12, 1985: New (current) CESC dedication/speaker
- February 23, 1991: Big Event speaker
- October 12, 1995: TC Foundation corporate event
- November 11-12, 1997: President's Reception
- December 13-14, 1999: Book signing event
- November 15, 2012: VIP Breakfast/School Event
The Cernan Earth and Space Center has a number of Earth and space exhibits in its main lobby, as follows:
APOLLO 10 SPACE SUIT
This was the spacesuit worn by astronaut Gene Cernan on the Apollo 10 mission. This spacesuit was never worn on the moon, since the Apollo 10 mission was not designed to land astronauts on the surface. Instead, this mission served as the final "dress rehearsal" before the first lunar landing mission of Apollo 11 two months later.
OTHER APOLLO ARTIFACTS
This case contains a variety of Apollo artifacts, including a coverall garment worn by Gene Cernan en route to the moon and several pieces of Apollo spacecraft navigation equipment.
Models of the Space Shuttle, Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft and Explorer 1 are suspended over the heads of visitors in the lobby.
This exhibit shows cutaway models of the major types of telescopes and describes a few of the many celestial objects that can be seen with small telescopes.
This is a full-scale model of a footprint and lower leg bone of a Brachiosaurus that illustrates the size of these great prehistoric animals. This is not a real footprint, nor was this the footprint from a dinosaur found locally. No dinosaur bones have ever been found in northern Illinois due to the fact that glaciers from the last Ice Age "scoured away" any dinosaur fossils that may have once existed.
This exhibit displays a variety of Illinois fossils including our state fossil, the "Tully Monster."
This book is a facsimile of the original Copernicus manuscript, titled "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium" (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), which was published in 1543 in Nuremberg, Germany. This work challenged the notion that the Earth was the center of the universe and thereby was a landmark in human and scientific thought.
The Nike Tomahawk missile was used to collect weather information in the Earth's upper atmosphere. The Apollo Practice Capsule never flew in space, but was used by the U.S. Navy to practice ocean recoveries.
Please click any of the following links to further explore the exciting world of astronomy, space exploration, earth science and weather.
Earth Science Links
- NASA Office of Earth Sciences - An excellent collection of astronaut photographs of the earth.
- The Night Sky in the World - Satellite photos of the world's artificial night sky brightness and stellar visibility.
- The Aurora Page - Information, links and images about the aurora or "northern lights."
- This Dynamic Earth: The Story of Plate Tectonics - Complete text and figures from a book published by the U.S. Geological Survey.
- Mapquest Interactive Atlas - An online atlas of the world.
- TopoZone - An interactive topographic map of the entire United States.
- All the Maps in the World - Links to all kinds of maps.
Dinosaurs and Other Ancient Life
- Dinosauria Online
- Dr. Paul Sereno, Paleontologist - Dr. Paul Sereno's dinosaur expeditions of discover.
Earth Science Education
- Learning from the Fossil Record -- A collection of essays, activities, and lesson plans for grades K-12.
- Teaching Earth Science -- NASA's collection of resources for earth science education.
Weather / Meteorology
- The Weather Channel
- Intellicast: World and National Weather
- Real-Time Weather Data - A collection of current weather information resources for meteorologists.
- Space Science and Engineering Center - An outstanding collection of current weather satellite images.
- The Clear Sky Clock - This innovative graphic device (with links to prognosticated satellite photos) provides 48-hour cloud cover predictions for 253 locations in the U.S and Canada.
- The Geostationary Satellite Browse Server - A collection of GOES satellite photos covering North America, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Alaska
- Storm Prediction Center - A great resource for U.S. severe weather forecasting.
- Storm Track - A collection of resources for storm chasers, including current weather conditions, past storm chases and storm research.
- Online Guide to Meteorology - Multimedia instructional modules that introduce and explain fundamental concepts in meteorology.
Astronomy & Space Science Links
Getting Started in Astronomy
- Sky and Telescope Magazine Online - Sky and Telescope's revised Web site now features "how to" articles, a searchable magazine archive, online shopping, current sky information and customized star maps.
- Astronomy Magazine Online
- Que tal in the Current Skies - A great monthly online magazine of the current sky!
- Abrams Sky Calander - The Abrams Planetarium's monthly look at the current sky.
- What's Out Tonight? - Hosted by Ken Press publishing, this general astronomy site helps the beginner and educator get started in the wonderful science of astronomy.
- Sky and Telescope's Astronomy Basics - Provides a wealth of information on backyard astronomy, including how to use a star map, how to select and use binoculars and telescopes, and more.
- Astronomy Equipment Ratings - Before you buy, read the evaluations of numerous models of binoculars, telescopes, eyepieces, etc. posted to the Web site by amateur astronomers.
- ScopeReviews.com - Another excellent Web site that reviews telescopes, eyepieces and accessories.
- Cloudy Nights Telescope Reviews - Dedicated to providing reviews of astronomical scopes and equipment as written by experienced observers in the amateur astronomy community.
- Astronomy Picture of the Day - Features a different astronomy picture each day, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
- Clear Sky Clock - Developed from data supplied by the Canadian Meteorological Centre, this Web site presents graphics-based, 48-hour forecasts for observing conditions at sites scattered throughout the United States and Canada.
Star Charts, Astronomy Calculators and Simulators
- Earth and Moon Viewer - View the Earth and moon from anywhere in space with this outstanding virtual reality simulator!
- Solar System Live - View the entire solar system or just the inner planets, with this interactive orrery.
- Your Weight on Other Worlds - Calculate your weight on the moon and other planets of our solar system.
- Your Age on Other Worlds - Calculate your age measured in other planetary years.
- Build a Solar System - Calculate planet sizes and distances on any scale you wish.
- Skymaps.com - Publication quality sky maps and star charts for both the northern and southern hemisphere.
- Solar System Simulator - View any object in the solar system (in full-color graphics) from any location and time.
- Heavens Above - This excellent Web site can generate user-defined star maps as well as predictions for observing the space shuttle, International Space Station, Iridium Flares and other visible satellites from any location on Earth.
- Artificial Satellite Predictions
- Mars Hemisphere Calculator - This Sky & Telescope online calculator indicates the Martian surface features visible for any date and time.
Sun, Moon, Planets, Comets and Meteors
- Big Bear Solar Observatory - The latest images of the sun, showing any sunspots, prominences and flares.
- NASA Space Weather Bureau - Forecasts solar flares, magnetic storms, auroral activity and other space-related phenomena.
- Mr. Eclipse.com - Solar eclipse expert Fred Espenak's excellent guide to eclipse photography.
- The Moon Page
- Consolidated Lunar Atlas - This Web site features a collection of the best photographic images of the moon.
- International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) - How to observe and time the occultation (i.e., eclipsing) of stars by the moon, planets or asteroids.
- Lunar and Planetary Institute - A NASA-funded institute in Houston, Texas, devoted to studying the solar system and sharing the excitement of space exploration with the public.
- The Nine Planets - An outstanding resource for planetary information.
- Java Jupiter - Shows the positions of the four Galilean satellites of Jupiter, their shadows and the Great Red Spot.
- Moons of the Solar System - Managed by the Planetary Society, this Web site keeps pace with the rapidly changing number of known moons in our solar system.
Stars, Constellations and Celestial Wonders
- The Constellations - Provides information on all 88 constellations, including both myths and facts.
- The Constellations and their Stars
- American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) - How to observe variable stars and their importance to astronomy.
- Space.com - The latest space news, as well as space-related entertainment and science fiction.
- NASA TV - Watch NASA TV on your computer.
- NASA Home Page
- NASA History
- Human Space Flight (Space Shuttle and the ISS)
- Hubble Space Telescope images
- Hubble Heritage Images
- Great Images in NASA - A collection of more than a thousand images of significant historical interest scanned at high-resolution in several sizes.
- NASA Apollo Lunar Surface Journal - The complete transcript of all Apollo missions (with astronaut commentary), along with audio transcripts, still images, and audio and video clips. A unique and truly excellent site!
- The Association of Space Explorers - This organization, comprised of 200 individuals from 26 nations who have flown in space, promotes space exploration and environmental awareness.
- Bad Astronomy.com
- NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- NASA (JPL) Mars Meteorite Home Page
- NASA Human Spaceflight - NASA's Web page for the International Space Station, Space Shuttle and Mir.
- The Universe Today - The latest space exploration news.
- NASA Space Telescope Science Institute - The latest news about the Hubble Space Telescope.
- An Interactive Guide for the International Space Station
Astronomy Education/Astronomy News
- NASA Office of Education
- Space Science Education Resources - NASA's searchable, Web-based database of space science education resources for K-12 teachers and students.
- NASA Pages for Kids - NASA's webpages specifically designed for children
- Paper Plate Education - An award-winning Web site that has a variety of innovative hands-on astronomy learning activities that can be demonstrated with common paper plates.
- Teaching the Solar System - An outstanding collection of links and resources related to astronomy education, including activities and lesson plans.
- Hands-On Universe - A national science educational program that enables high school students (and eventually middle school students, museums and science centers) to request their own observations from professional observatories.
- The Night Sky in the World - Satellite maps showing the artificial night sky brightness (light pollution) throughout the world, based on research conducted by the Italian Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute.
- NASA Education Home Page - NASA's collection of educational information and resource materials for teachers, faculty and students.
- Astronomical League (AL) - The parent organization for most astronomy clubs in the United States.
- American Astronomical Society (AAS) - The major professional organization in North America for astronomers.
- Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) - The largest general astronomy society in the world, comprised of both amateur and professional astronomers.
- International Planetarium Society (IPS) - The largest organization of planetarium professionals in the world.
- International Dark Sky Association - Its goal is to improve the darkness of the night sky through more efficient outdoor lighting.
Chicago Area Astronomical Societies
- Naperville Astronomical Association
- The Lake County Astronomical Society
- The Northwest Suburban Astronomers
- Calumet Astronomical Society
- Astronomical League (AL) - Find your nearest astronomy society (in the United States).
Astronomy Discussion Groups (Free subscription to the discussion group is generally required)
The Cernan Earth and Space Center was named for astronaut Eugene A. Cernan (CAPT, USN, Retired) who was born on March 14, 1934, and raised in suburban Bellwood, not far from the Triton College campus where the Cernan Earth and Space Center is located.
Before becoming an astronaut, Gene Cernan was an American naval officer, naval aviator, electrical engineer, aeronautical engineer and fighter pilot. He flew aboard the Gemini 9, Apollo 10 and Apollo 17 missions. In December 1972, Captain Cernan was the last astronaut to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
The entire Triton College community is saddened by the passing of Capt. Eugene Cernan, the last man to set foot on the moon and namesake of Triton’s Cernan Earth and Space Center. He is a true American hero and forever a friend of Triton. Former Cernan Center Director Bart Benjamin shared his memories of Captain Cernan with WGN News, CBS Chicago, NBC Chicago and ABC Chicago. Click the links below to learn more about the life and legacy of Capt. Cernan.
Click here to watch a video of the funeral services for Gene Cernan, held Jan. 24, 2017 in Houston, TX.
Our annual "Big Event" welcomes an astronaut or scientist for a special presentation and reception once each year. Since the Cernan Center inaugurated its membership program in early 1985, we have welcomed the following speakers:
Date of "Big Event" & Guest Speaker
- Sat., Jan. 12, 1985 - Eugene Cernan, Gemini and Apollo Astronaut
- Sat., Feb. 15, 1986 - James Lovell, Gemini and Apollo Astronaut
- Sat., Feb. 21, 1987 - Lee Sentell, U.S. Space Camp and Academy
- Sat., Feb. 6, 1988 - Alan Bean, Apollo & Skylab Astronaut/Space Artist
- Fri., Feb. 17, 1989 - Edward Rocky Kolb - Astronomer from Fermilab
- Sat., Jan. 27, 1990 - Byron Lichtenberg, Space Shuttle Astronaut
- Sat., Feb. 23, 1991 - Eugene Cernan, Gemini and Apollo Astronaut
- Sat., Feb. 8, 1992 - Janice Voss, Astronaut Candidate
- Fri., June 11, 1993 - James Kaler, Astronomer/Author
- Fri., April 15, 1994 - Richard Berry, Astronomer/Former Chief Editor of Astronomy
- Sun., April 2, 1995 - Bruce McCandless, Space Shuttle Astronaut
- Fri., March 22, 1996 - David Levy, Astronomer/Comet Expert
- Sat., March 1, 1997 - Alan Hale, Comet Expert (Co-Discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp)
- Sat., April 18, 1998 - Edward Rocky Kolb, Astronomer from Fermilab
- Sat., March 13, 1999 - Paul Sereno, Dinosaur Expert
- Sat., April 1, 2000 - Fred Espenak, Solar Eclipse Expert
- Sat., March 3, 2001- Story Musgrave, Space Shuttle Astronaut
- Sat., April 13, 2002 - James Oberg, Expert on the Soviet and Russian Space Program
- Sat., March 1, 2003 - Rob Landis, NASA-JPL (Cassini and Mars Exploration Rover Projects)
- Sat., March 27, 2004 - Story Musgrave, Space Shuttle Astronaut
- Sat., April 9, 2005 - Paul Sereno, Dinosaur Expert
- Sat., Aug. 26, 2006 - Paul Sirvatka, Severe Weather Expert/Storm Chaser
- Sat., Nov. 3, 2007 - Stanley Ambrose, Anthropologist/Archeologist
- Fri., Aug. 22, 2008 - Story Musgrave, Space Shuttle Astronaut
- Sat., Aug. 22, 2009 - Galileo Galilei, 17th century Italian scientist, as portrayed by Mark Thompson
- Sat., Aug. 14, 2010 - Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp, Author, Space Historian.
- Sat., Sep. 17, 2011 - Dr. Paul Sipiera, Antarctic Meteorite researcher.
- Sat., Sep. 8, 2012 - Brother Guy Consolmagno, Astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory
- Sat., Sep. 28, 2013 - Paul Sirvatka, Severe Weather Expert/Storm Chaser
- Sat., Oct. 11, 2014 - Scott Williams, Dinosaur Expert
- Sat., Sep. 12, 2015 - Dr. Dan Hooper, Revealing The Nature of Dark Matter
- Sat., Apr. 22, 2017 - Fred Espenak, Solar Eclipse Expert
- Sat., Apr. 28, 2018 - Nagin Cox, NASA/JPL Spacecraft Operations Engineer