NEW PALTZ – The John R. Kirk Planetarium at the State University of New York at New Paltz unveiled a new digital projector at a public showing on April 11. The event was preceded by a V.I.P. reception and showing, which was attended by the College’s cabinet, deans, chairs of the School of Science and Engineering, members of the School’s advisory committee, and members of the local community with ties to the planetarium.
The new projector, which is completely digital and runs using software called Stellarium, provides a more immersive, transformative experience and creates a more dynamic atmosphere for viewers. The digital projector will allow for more features in a planetarium show, including fly-throughs and drawn overlays, as well as a more accurate and detailed depiction of the sky. During the last academic year (2011-2012), more than 2,000 visitors attended programs at the planetarium.
In addition to creating a more updated and higher quality planetarium show, the purchase of this projector enables faculty to teach astronomy students to use equipment that they will likely be required to operate if they become employed at a planetarium after graduating from New Paltz. Students will also learn to use the projector to make a map of the sky, building on more traditional methods and on material covered in class.
“Our students will graduate knowing how to work the older, mechanical projector as well as the new, digital one,” said Raj Pandya, director of the planetarium and a lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at New Paltz. “It’s a very different tool and we can do a lot more with it. It was very exciting to share this important upgrade with the public last night, and I’m looking forward to using it at our future showings.”
The new projector will be utilized in upcoming “Astronomy Nights,” a series of public planetarium shows and observatory viewings. The next Astronomy Night will be held on April 18, with a planetarium show at 7:30 p.m. followed by an observatory viewing (if the sky is clear) at 8:30 p.m. For more information and a full schedule of public programs, go to http://www.newpaltz.edu/planetarium/shows.html.
The John R. Kirk Planetarium is an educational resource for New Paltz students as well as the many school, corporate, civic, hospital, church, and scouting groups that attend its programs each year. The planetarium was named after John R. Kirk, a faculty member in the Philosophy Department at New Paltz in the 1960s and ’70s who directed the New Paltz Planetarium and was instrumental in expanding its educational and public programming.