Parking Lot Update

Due to filming on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, parking and traffic will be impacted from July 5 to 12. If you plan to park in the UNC-owned lot in front of our building, please visit our Plan A Visit page. 

Tales from the front desk

By NOELLE KEISTER

CHAPEL HILL, NC (June 27, 2024)—As a student employee, I never knew what to expect when sitting at the front desk of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

There might be nothing happening, as was often the case on Monday mornings at 8 am when my only job was to jot down the voicemails from the night before. On other days, there might be a school group, a Teen Science Cafe, a going away party for a loved employee, or the raucous sounds of a birthday party. I got used to hearing the screams of happy children and the faint sounds of a fire extinguisher from the Science Stage. When lighting different chemicals on fire to see what color they burn, a fire extinguisher is very handy.

Noelle Keister stands in a grad cap and gown in the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center Gateway Gallery.
Noelle Keister in the Morehead Gateway Gallery.

Then there were the truly unusual days, such as April 8, 2024, the day of the solar eclipse. When I arrived at work, there was already a line out the door, past Old East, all the way down to the Quad. There were students on their laptops and parents and families, all clamoring to get a pair of Morehead eclipse glasses, but our limited amount of glasses sold out almost immediately. Later, at 2:15 pm, when the peak of the eclipse occurred, I could see the entire front lawn full of people staring in awe at the sky. Pairs of eclipse glasses were being passed around as one person got a look and gave them to the next. I gave my pair to twin five-year-old boys who desperately wanted to stare directly into the sun. For a moment, everything was silent, as hundreds of people were just sitting in amazement.

Noelle Keister wears a grad cap and gown at the UNC-Chapel Hill Bell Tower.

Then there were the phone calls asking about aliens, UFOs, comets, and other mysterious objects in the sky. Every time, I would help describe what solar event was happening that day, and I would refer them to a scientist if they needed more information. My favorite calls were from a parent or a grandparent calling to explain that their child loved space and asking what show I would recommend. I remember my parents doing the same thing when I was a child going to the science museum.

Whether it was one of those memorable events or a seemingly mundane day, you could always count on one thing: Sitting at the front desk would be a student employee helping visitors learn about science and answering their questions. Even though I will no longer be one of those students, I’ll always remember my time there. In fact, there’s still a chance that if you call my phone, I will accidentally answer it with “Welcome to Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. This is Noelle speaking; how can I help you?”

Noelle Keister ’24 was a student employee at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center from 2021 to 2024, serving as a Sales Assistant and Administrative Assistant.