William M. Staerkel Planetarium summer preview
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 12:05
This summer the William M. Staerkel Planetarium will have a variety of shows for students and non-students alike to enjoy.
The planetarium shows are presented using a system called the “Zeiss machine.” According to the Planetarium website, “The Zeiss model M-1015 projects about 7600 simulated stars, the Sun, Moon and 5 planets onto a dome-shaped screen which is fifty feet across.”
The system also allows for the viewer to see the solar system from any point on earth and at points in time that range from several thousand years in the past to several thousand years in the future.
Waylena McCully, Production Designer for the planetarium had this to say regarding the system, “The reaction has been quite favorable. We’ve been able to project a 3D model of the galaxy and that’s been quite effective.”
According to the planetarium website, one upcoming show is “Prairie Skies.” This is a show that changes with the seasons and sometimes even daily.
It shows the stars, constellations and other objects in the sky above while you rest in the comfort of the air conditioned planetarium. The show is shown on most Friday nights at 7 p.m.
Another show that can be viewed at the planetarium this summer is “The Planets.” According to the planetarium website, this presentation will show off how our solar system could have formed, as well as provide a tour of our planetary system. “The Planets” is shown most nights at 8 according to the planetarium schedule.
McCully explained, “This show is more aimed for the entire family and not just for the younger kids. It’s closer to a documentary.”
Another upcoming event is “One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure.” The planetarium website describes this show by saying, “Explore the night sky with our friends from Sesame Street. Join Big Bird, Elmo, and Hu Hu Zhu as they take an imaginary trip to the Moon. See how the Moon is different from the Earth and learn how to find the Big Dipper and North Star from your backyard.”
The next show the planetarium has to offer is a brand new experience called “Cosmic Colors,” which will debut on July 13 at 8 p.m. This show focuses on different colors of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The show will offer explanations to such questions as “Why is the sky blue, and “Why is mars red?’ The planetarium website promises that this presentation will also show the inner workings of a plant leaf and the human eye.”
According to McCully, the show also had a helping hand from the William M. Staerkel Planetarium.
She explained the planetarium’s involvement by saying, “It had to be made in full dome video format. We had to combine images from real photos and 3D images to show the effects. It took a little while to render the scenes in 3D software, but it was a lot of fun to be a part of a process like that.”
According to the Parkland College News and Events website, the planetarium will also host a free telescope viewing of the transit of Venus on Tuesday, June 5 from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. Attendees will be afforded a view of a rare transit of Venus through a special lens as it passes in front of the Sun.
This event will be set up just west of the perimeter drive, south of the Tony Noel Agricultural Technology Applications Center on the Parkland College campus. The actual transit is a rare event that won’t happen again until 2117, according to the events website.
One more notice about the planetarium this summer is that it be closed from June 18-July 9. For more information about the planetarium and its shows, visit http://www2.parkland.edu/planetarium/index.html. Information about the Venus transit event can be found by following the link at http://www.parkland.edu/newsEvents/eventsCalendar.aspx.