The head of the astrophysics department at the University of Rhode Island said he knew he wanted to study space since he was 4 years old.

Professor Doug Gobeille fell in love with outer space when he looked up and got lost in the emptiness. He exhausted his parents with questions, but he said he “did not exhaust [his] curiosity.”  

All of Gobeille’s degrees are in physics, but works as a full-time astronomer. He calls himself a “reformed particle physicist,” and his knowledge on black holes is far more than a semester course could cover.  This is Gobeille’s third semester here, and he’s beginning the slow process of modernizing the university’s planetarium while teaching two courses at URI.

The planetarium is a small round building next to Bliss Hall. Gobeille said that the planetarium is generally open twice a week, sometimes for his classes, sometimes to the public and sometimes when professors ask to bring their class there. However, Gobeille is hoping to expand this program in order to attract more students. He’s eager to get both the program within the planetarium and the astronomy program in general to be more popular among students and the public alike.  

As of now, the planetarium’s program essentially shows a dome-like view of space as if the viewers were outside looking up at the sky, but with a much clearer and closer view. The show describes the stars and the planets and their motions within the galaxy, including a history of the evolution of what we know about the sky, which Gobeille describes as the closest one can get to being in space while at URI.  

With the advancements of new telescopes and expansion of equipment, the planetarium’s program is evolving and the show could get to be even more descriptive and detailed in coming years.  

Gobeille said the most rewarding part of studying the stars is being able to visit “the craziest, most remote places on Earth.” He has been to the Australian Outback and the tops of Hawaiian mountains, some of the most dangerous, dark, lonely places in the world in order to get the material he needed. During these trips, he and his co-workers often get little to no sleep, and when they do, they fall asleep as the sun comes up and wake up in the afternoon to prepare for the upcoming night.

Gobeille said his love for space is grounded by the idea that he is “not interested in reality because it’s a lie.”