By ZEYNAB DAY
The Hummel Planetarium is moving into the digital age with new equipment that aims to take its shows beyond the stars.
Officials with the Hummel Planetarium said Eastern’s landmark is now offering a variety of new shows for K-12 students. The new shows are a result of the Planetariums restructuring and renovations from the last year.
Six new digital projectors that simultaneously project on the planetarium’s overhead dome recently replaced the previous Spitz Space Voyager projection system said James Hughes, planetarium manager. He said the new projectors broadened the planetarium’s ability to add new content.
To some, the planetarium is just catching up with the rest of the world, said James Mullins, assistant director of conferencing and events at Eastern.
“If you do any research on planetariums across the world they are really thinking beyond the stars,” Mullins said. “Some of the programs the facility is capable of doing now could entail biology or history.”
Mullins said the Hummel Planetarium is looking to expand its range and offer a wide variety of shows in the future. He said the shows would still be science oriented but could include subjects other than astronomy.
The National Geographic special Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure is one of a variety new shows currently offered for K-12 and college visits.
“Sea monsters is really cool to see on the big dome,” Mullins said.
Other programs include: Sesame Street program One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure; Perfect Little Planet a special about Earth’s solar system; Dark, which explores the origin of the universe and concepts about dark matter; and Life: A Cosmic Story, about the processes of life on earth.
Planetarium officials purchased the current shows from a vendor that offers a wide variety of shows supported by the new projection system, Hughes said.
There is currently no charge for internal departments who would like to schedule classrooms to view shows, Hughes said.
Various on-campus departments, such as parks and recreation, utilize the Planetarium for class tours to see how things are ran behind the scenes, Hughes said. He said they are hoping to encourage more departments to visit the Planetarium facilities for various learning opportunities that reach beyond attending shows.
The Planetarium will have more than 30 new seats to be installed by the end of February and officials said they are working to get the facility ready to reopen for public shows. The new seats will be placed in the center of the auditorium where the large projector, the sky ball, and other equipment sat previously, Hughes said.
The old projection system, referred to as the star ball, is on display in the exit area at the Planetarium. The ball measure more than a meter in circumference and has and can project more than 10,164 stars, according to the Hummel Planetarium website.
“It’s really cool, It kind-of looks like the Death Star[Star Wars],” said Mullins.
The display also includes telescopes and models, which were used at the Planetarium in the past.
Although it is a goal of the Planetarium official to reopen for public shows Mullins said there is no specific date set. He said they are also encouraging groups visiting the conference center to utilize the Planetarium for conferences and events as the new projector system and audio systems can be used for a multitude of different media.
Prices and reservation information for schools shows can be found on the Hummel Planetarium EKU website.