Community Solar System re-opens at Riverfront Museum

By WEEK Reporter

February 8, 2014 Updated Feb 9, 2014 at 12:07 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Now families have the chance to explore space. Peoria's Riverfront Museum celebrated the grand re-opening of the community solar system.

It is curator Sheldon Schafer's last project after 38 year's of space education, and he's taken on a big task.

"We had to move the whole solar system," said Schafer.

The original, record breaking model he made years ago had to be relocated from Lakeview to the Riverfront Museum. This time her made it bigger. He recreated a 6,000-square-foot model of the solar system.

"It's the largest to scale most complete solar system in the world," said the new planetarium curator, Renae Kerrigan.

It took two years to rebuild the exhibit. The museum is the center stop---it's the sun. The other planets are all over.

"Jupiter's at the airport. We worked with the airport and the airport authority to get it there," said Schafer. "We worked with Rock Island Trail State Park to get Uranus and Neptune located."

Mercury is within walking distance from the museum, but Saturday, there's plenty to do inside.

"I had fun making the rockets," said 5-year-old visitor Jack Lyons.

"We're doing a special workshop here for children ages 3-5, so they can learn more about astronomy," said Riverfront Museum Learning Coordinator Crystal Radovanovic.

Kids built rocket ships using PVC pipes, paper and soda bottles. They got to test them out.

"Younger kids don't get a lot of science education at a young age, so if you don't get them excited about it chances are they'll be intimidated by it when they're older or they'll be behind," said Radovanovic.

The program also included a liquid nitrogen ice cream making workshop and a guided walk to earth and back lead by Sheldon Schafer.

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