Log in

Member Penny Salanave and her husband Leon Salanave were important figures in the SFAA and in the local astronomy community.

Leon Salanave played a key role in the building of the original Morrison Planetarium inside the California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. The Planetarium was unveiled  on November 8th, 1952 and served millions of visitors until it was replaced with a modern digital version in 2008.

 Leon was the Morrison's first staff astronomer and had the task of sorting out the stars the projector would display. With the help of other experts, it was decided to project 3800 stars - about 1000 fewer than most can actually see under ideal conditions, but consultants agreed that the difference would be largely negligible. The result was a sky that was hailed by many (Adler Planetarium director Wagner Schlesinger and British astronomer Patrick Moore among them) as the most realistic they'd seen in a planetarium - not bad for a home-made machine! Behind Leon in the photo below, the horizon features a San Francisco skyline that includes prominent landmarks such as the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, cut directly out of the sheet metal of the dome, further supporting the illusion of being outside under a clear sky. Rumor once had it that the skyline was designed by famed photographer Ansel Adams, but Leon said there was no truth to the claim.  Leon documented the history of in the Planetarium in a paper published by the ASP (Astronomical Society of the Pacific) called "A Planetarium for San Francisco".

Leon died tragically in 1993 when he was struck by an automobile.

Penny Salanave served both as SFAA President and SFAA Board member for many years.  In his recollections video, Lou Epstein credits her for keeping the SFAA running during some difficult times that the club experienced.