Located in Vincent Science Center, the Planetarium’s weekly shows consist of unique student-run content with newly updated equipment.
Noah Shinn, junior physical pre- engineer major and student director at the Planetarium, described the weekly show as some space, some science and a little bit of just messing around and having some internet fun.
He said that the “space” part is done using software called Nightshade, which allows Shinn and other students to take a virtual tour through space and “internet fun” consists of whatever the students find funny and want to put in the show.
“The school provided us with extra projectors that they had to test out our new system,” Shinn. “While they are not exactly what we need it allowed us to test our theory and prove that a multi-projector system will give us a much higher resolution and brighter image. Now that we have proven this we are waiting for the school to purchase us five new projectors that will fill the entire dome.”
Besides the weekly show other events have taken place in the Planetarium in the past. One event celebrated May 4th, or Star Wars day, and the students at the Planetarium showed all the movies throughout the day. Another was “You Choose” night, where Shinn went to the audience and had them tweet the Planetarium a video they wanted to see.
“People just came for the show and we said tonight is going to be a little different. We would throw in our usual stuff so we could have the time to run through the videos and screen them,” Shinn said.
Another event is a light show, which is well liked by audience members.
The Planetarium also does service learning projects for the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. Shinn helps the groups get various merit badges, such as the Astronomy badge, looking over what they need in advance to fit the criteria and getting the groups what they need. Watching the weekly show also counts as an honor activity, with the 50 seats of the Planetarium filling up so they could get their last event in. In the past the seats have been filled to capacity so Shinn had to pull it chairs from other rooms in the building.
There have also been updates in the technology behind the Planetarium. The old system consisted of one projector which would reflect across. Now that there are five or six projectors around the dome and the system is digital, it looks a lot better.
“It’s beautiful now, it’s the resolution and the brightness,” Shinn said.
Getting involved is a matter of showing up and seeing how you can help. In the past people will usually linger around and ask how do they get involved, with Shinn and students quick to have them join as soon as possible.
“The goal is anyone who works in the Planetarium could come do a show by themselves,” he explained.
The group gets to relax after a semester of hard work, taking away some of the stress of finals week by projecting games like Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. on the dome.
Shinn’s goal moving forward is to make it a show worth seeing. The planetarium has so many people by the end of a semester who as seniors have been there just for the first time, saying they weren’t even aware the school had a Planetarium.
“I want almost every single student to know the Planetarium exists. I want to have people talk about it,” Shinn said. “We’re showing off student work with a student-run show and it’s free.”
Shows are every Thursday night and the doors open at 8 p.m.