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Gaze into the galaxy

When Galileo first peered through his looking glass to view the stars, could he have imagined that future generations would be able to see the stars projected on the ceiling of their homes?

While he may not have been able to envision this future advancement, this is essentially what is happening in the Planetarium in Nevins Hall.

Winter Stargazing, the latest Planetarium show at VSU, is to be held on Friday at the Planetarium in Nevins Hall at 8 to 9 p.m. The shows are free to the public and have a capacity limit of 47 people per show.

The new Digitarium Kappa projector was installed July 2011 at VSU.

Its streamlined design and narrower footprint is the center piece of the Planetarium’s redesign during the installation, and it is one of the first of its kind in the world.

Dr. Kenneth Rumstay, professor of physics and astronomy, facilitates the Planetarium shows at VSU.

He explained the new projector’s advanced technology over the previous one.

“One of the nice things that we couldn’t do with the old planetarium is that not only can we simulate traveling to other bodies in space, but we can label the objects,” he said.

He further explained that the lighting can be controlled at the console and a mixer can control the sound for the shows.

All of the computer software can be controlled from an iPad.

The central computer allows for an endless variety of projections onto the domed ceiling from anywhere on the Earth’s surface to one of Saturn’s moons, all points between and beyond.

A projected view from Saturn’s moons gives an extraordinary view of the planet’s rings.

Views from around the world are as easy as a quick selection from the iPad.

Dr. Martha Leake, a professor at VSU and co-facilitator of the Planetarium shows, explained the new Digitarium Kappa projector.

“This one is patterned on the old digital system that had blobs for stars”, said Dr. Martha Leake. “But this one has been upgraded over the years so that the stars look pretty good.”

It’s all software driven, compared to the old Spitz model that projected the stars with a series of mirrors.

The 44-year-old Spitz A3P, the former planetarium projector was the old favorite.

According to Dr. Rumstay there are hundreds of them at various facilities throughout the world.

When the time came for a renovation of the Nevins Hall facility, funding was provided for an upgrade to the new projector.

In addition to a new projector, the couch-style seating was replaced with individual chairs that assist in limiting the capacity to the shows, which is helpful to maintain fire codes for the room.

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