Thieves steal unique items used to teach children about space

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A man said what thieves took from his car is priceless because of what it is used for — to teach children.

Martin Hilario is a part of club that does astronomy outreach at local schools and at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science’s Planetarium, which will now be tough after someone stole tens of thousands worth of equipment.

It all started when Hilario got to his car Tuesday morning.

“What I saw was the glove compartment left open,” said Martin Hilario, a member of The Albuquerque Astronomical Society.

Thieves had broken into his car parked in a gated community in the Northeast Heights – and took something unique.

“They opened up my trunk and stole a refracting telescope and camera lenses,” said Hilario. “I was packing up a white explorer scientific refractor not unlike this for a school Star Party Outreach,” said Hilario.

The telescope equipment stolen from his trunk is worth thousands of dollars.

“I was upset and wanted to take action very quickly,” said Hilario.

However, that is not all the thieves made out with.

“Took my keys, just left my star charts,” said Hiario.

Those keys let you into the club’s storage unit — and the thieves took advantage.

“All the contents of the storage unit were cleaned out,” said Jim Greenhouse, a member of the club and the Science Space Director at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.

The biggest loss was the club’s portable planetarium.

“The portable planetarium by itself was $25,000.” said Greenhouse.

The blow up dome is a fan favorite when the club does their monthly outreach at local schools.

“They could walk into it and point out a galaxy and learn about the constellation,” said Hilario.

“We can show what the sky looked like any place on Earth, any time in history,” said Greenhouse.

Hilario said he feels fortunate there is no major damage to his car.

“Just a scratch and a pop of the lock,” said Hilario.

But the biggest worry for the astronomical society? They have a jam packed schedule of students waiting to experience the mobile planetarium.

“We are trying not to disappoint in providing those Star Parties,” said Thomas Grzybowski, member of The Albuquerque Astronomical Society.

Club members said luckily their old planetarium was not in the storage unit at the time and that is what they will use in the meantime. They said, if anything, they think items will be sold in pieces.

The club did file a police report, and do have surveillance video from the storage unit as well. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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