ScienceWorks Museum in Ashland has applied for a $650,000 National Aeronautics and Space Administration grant to create a state-of-the-art planetarium that can teach astronomy and digital lessons about nature, oceans and the planet.

ScienceWorks Museum in Ashland has applied for a $650,000 National Aeronautics and Space Administration grant to create a state-of-the-art planetarium that can teach astronomy and digital lessons about nature, oceans and the planet.

"It's a huge step for ScienceWorks, a very powerful new teaching tool," said Richard Levitt, the museum's vice president for projects and writer of the grant. "Dream big — that's what we try to do here€¦and this is the biggest thing we've ever tried to do." Following a NASA request for proposals, ScienceWorks filed the application in September and should hear back between March and June, said Mark DiRienzo, the museum's executive director.

The planetarium would take eight months to build and would go up within the existing building, DiRienzo said. ScienceWorks would have to raise less than 10 percent of costs.

The structure would be a full-dome theater, with images projected ahead, above and behind viewers, Levitt said. It also could have the capacity for 3-D.

The structure, which would be the only one of its kind between Eugene and Redding, Calif., could be used for teaching about earth and oceans, plants and animals, and space and astronomy, three main areas of interest shown in customer surveys, ScienceWorks officials said.

— John Darling