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FMU Planetarium re-opens under new leadership

FLORENCE – The Francis Marion University Planetarium is now back in service. Following the death of longtime FMU professor and planetarium director James “Ed” Dooley last spring, regular operation of the university’s planetarium had been suspended.

John R. Mattox, who joined the FMU faculty this fall as an associate professor of physics and astronomy, has been named director of the planetarium and observatory.

Mattox received the B.S. degree in physics from the University of Florida. He received both the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in applied physics from Stanford University. After working at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, Mattox worked on the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. After leaving NASA, Mattox was a research associate professor at Boston University.

 “Ed Dooley did a fantastic service for FMU in initiating our astronomy program,” Mattox said. “The facilities he created here, both the planetarium and the observatory, were carefully done, and will be useful for many more years. They should provide a great platform for us to build on. I’m pleased to have been selected to lead FMU’s future astronomy program.”

School and community groups can now schedule educational programs at the FMU Planetarium. The programs are free of charge. For the fall semester, programs can be scheduled from 9 to 10 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 10 to 11 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. To schedule an appointment, contact the FMU Department of Chemistry and Physics at 843-661-1381.

Mattox said he expects to resume scheduling Sunday planetarium shows for the general public in the near future. He said he also wants to produce a good planetarium show this coming Christmas. “After all, the chance to do a millennium Christmas planetarium show doesn’t come very often,” he said.

The observatory will be open to the public on Saturday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. If weather conditions prohibit viewing on Sept. 23, the observatory will be open on the subsequent Saturday. Visitors may come and go as they please, as there is no formal presentation. Mattox and his volunteer staff will be available to show visitors the sights and answer questions.

The FMU Planetarium webpage is Mattox’s webpage is

For more information, call Mattox at 843-661-1441.

#24 / 8-30-00

Last Published: June 3, 2004 11:25 AM
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