By Barry Bebe


From miles of outdoor hiking trails, five lakes, and a vibrant art scene, there are many things that Prescott is able to boast about. For the past five years, you can add to that list the Jim & Linda Lee Planetarium at the STEM Center (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) on the campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

This unique facility is a multipurpose educational facility. The 47-foot dome is utilized by a variety of ERAU classes. “In a university sense the dome is larger than most. The dome has multi uses from holding physiology classes by utilizing some incredible anatomy programs, we also have an incredible Periodic Table program that is extremely useful, obviously astronomy, and other subjects,” Planetarium Director Eric Edelman explains.

Eric began his educational career studying English and journalism, and later moved into astronomy morphing of science and his love of storytelling.

After a bi-coastal life starting in California, then Connecticut earning his masters at Wesleyan University, back to California as a show presenter at the California Academy of Sciences prior to making the move to Prescott in 2017.

Eric’s enthusiasm for the planetarium and the programs they present is palpable and contagious. “I had the unique opportunity of creating a viable planetarium from scratch, for not only the university, but as a tool for public education beyond our student body,” Eric said.

This is where his love of storytelling comes into play. “There are many programs that are created for planetarium presentations, but to save one cost and make our program stand out and to have a local flavor, I end up creating many of the programs from scratch,” he said.

The 121-seat dome hosts an array of presentations based on the seasons for a very reasonable cost; $5 to $6 for most presentations.

“My background is on the study of exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system, and so I really enjoy developing and presenting programs that show the expanse of space beyond our galaxy.”

The Cosmic Web and “The Rising Stars of Prescott” is an opportunity to view the sky around above you during that season with the program changing on a monthly basis.

While still finalizing the summer season, one program that Eric is especially excited about is “Across the Visible Universe.”

“We’ve created a program starting in Prescott, where we go over the Grand Canyon and explain the layers of rock and the history that is shown and then move farther and farther out of our galaxy and begin to go back in time, so to speak, and basically going full circle. And folks are just in awe with the visuals of history being told through the stars.”

Along with being the benefactors of the planetarium, Jim Lee is very involved in keeping Eric abreast of new ideas and what other facilities around the country are doing. “Jim is very interested in the operations and science behind the planetarium, to which he will show up with a stack of folders or a binder with ideas for us to discuss about ‘how could we do this, or such,’” Eric explains.

Work to celebrate the five-year anniversary is keeping Eric and campus staff busy preparing a special program to be presented during the Spring Celestial Gala, April 15, 2023.

The evening fundraiser in recognition and celebration of Jim and Linda Lee begins with a progressive dinner stationed throughout campus with a plated dinner, followed by a live auction of ERAU themed opportunities, and a private planetarium presentation.

Tickets for it are $150 per person, and are available at

“One of the most enjoyable parts of the Lee Planetarium, is that it is not a ‘tourist’ planetarium which may run the same show for six months to a year at a time. Here, we have a very loyal and consistent clientele and we’re able to do more seasonal programs that are directed towards our community members and wheat they may express interest in,” Eric said.

If you are not able to make it to one of the shows at the planetarium, Eric suggests finding a good spot to stargaze. “Run, run away from the light,” he says. “Prescott, while not being an official ‘Dark Sky Site,’ there are great places to view the stars where the lights are not.

“It also depends on what you are looking for, if it’s meteor showers, those occur or are best viewed between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.”

He added that sunset planets such as Venus can be viewed rather simply as the sun sets.

“My life for the last five years has been gladly dedicated to developing this program and having the opportunity to see it thrive,” Eric said. “I have to remind myself sometimes to look up.”

For more information, visit or call 928-777-3422.

Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. He also has a radio show, the Prescott Palette, on KQNA 1130 AM, Saturdays at noon. Email: Prespalette

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