Staerkel Planetarium opening weekend:
Get stars in your eyes at the brand new facility
Published: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Updated: Sunday, March 20, 2011 18:03
At the beginning of this year, the William M. Staerkel Planetarium began its journey to becoming an advanced "science center," complete with a new digital video projector that covers the entire dome. The Planetarium also received new seats and carpet, but the "poster boy" of the Planetarium for many, the Zeiss star machine, rests comfortably in its original spot, with no plans to leave anytime soon. The reveal of the new vamped-up Planetarium kicked off on Friday, September 10 at 7pm with Fall Prairie Skies. While Fall Prairie Skies proves enchanting, Violent Universe began hurtling the audience through space at 8pm. The program promises to show comets, meteors, and asteroids flying through space. The Staerkel website assures that you will, "witness the raw power of the cosmos in this thrilling show that gives you a front-row seat to watch as worlds collide," all in the new full dome technology. Violent Universe will show at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays through mid-November, when a new 8pm show, Season of Light, will be introduced.
"A decent crowd with the old stuff would have been around 30," Dave Leake, Planetarium Director, laughs as he explains the difference in crowd size. Over opening weekend (September 10 and 11), they pulled in around 80 or 90 for the shows, with space left over. "I'm a little surprised we didn't sell out any shows, but I didn't have to turn anyone away, so that's good," said Leake.
The last time a show sold out was the last showing of the Pink Floyd light show, before the Planetarium closed for its renovations. Unfortunately for the light show fans, the shows couldn't be converted to the new system. It calls for different equipment that the Planetarium no longer has. One older, more child-oriented show, In My Backyard (Saturdays at 7pm through October), has been the only show converted so it can play on the new full-dome system.
Leake says, however, that transferring one show was enough of a job. "Changing and cleaning up the images is a tedious job.but will we never have musical programming for the Planetarium again?" Leake asked, referencing the popular musical light shows with Pink Floyd and The Who, among others. "Never say never," he said.
This is unfortunate for fans of such Planetarium shows, but the new focus in programming is great news for elementary and middle school students. Leake says the Planetarium programming is designed for bringing in groups and classes from schools so the facility can be used as a learning space, mostly, and a great place to spend a boring weekend night.
The learning space is not just for young students, but also for members of the community. Beginning October 1 at 7pm, the World of Science lecture series will incorporate a scientist, either from our very own Parkland College or the University of Illinois, and s/he will discuss a scientific topic. These lectures are designed to entertain and educate the audiences at the same time. Check out the Staerkel Planetarium website at http://www2.parkland.edu/planetarium/index.html for more details on the World of Science lectures and any other shows.
You may also call the show hotline at 217-351-2466 to find out times and more information on the shows.