Written by Gabrielle Little
Willimantic, Conn. - The Robert K. Wickware Planetarium at Eastern Connecticut State University will host its first fall public star show at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 3. The public is invited. Admission is free. Russell Sampson, associate professor of physical sciences, will host the star show, which will showcase a new state-of-the-art Spitz System 512 Star Projector and a new $17,000 LED Cove lighting system.
The new 512 Star Projector replaces the 40-year-old Spitz A4 projector. It can display 2,350 stars, almost twice as many as the old projector, as it contains the latest electronic controls, projection systems and precision motors. With the new equipment, the new projector can create the appearance of the simulated night sky in a more realistic fashion. "The new star projector provides a truly awe-inspiring simulation of the night sky," said Sampson. "The projector keeps Eastern at the forefront of astronomy education in Connecticut and will also improve our already high community outreach capabilities."
Sampson will also showcase the planetarium's new $17,000 LED Cove lighting system, a form of indirect lighting built to highlight decorative ceilings. Unlike the old 1970s era incandescent system, the new LED Cove lights can mix any color daytime sky. Cove lighting is valued because it hides the fixtures and provides a very even, warm light.
Each year the Robert K. Wickware Planetarium is used to teach up to 250 Eastern students. Eastern has also started the country's first minor in astronomy outreach and public presentation. This minor teaches students how to operate a planetarium. "The new Spitz System 512 will keep students in the minor competitive for jobs in schools and museums that have their own planetariums and star projector systems," said Sampson.
The planetarium is also used as an outreach service that presents free astronomy shows to students and staff, as well as local K-12 classes and community groups. The outreach programming reaches nearly 1,000 people per year.
Sampson believes that science education is an integral part of maintaining a productive and healthy society. "Astronomy is one of the most popular sciences I believe improving our planetarium teaching and outreach capability provides a gateway to higher education and lifelong learning," he said.
Upcoming Planetarium shows will take place on Nov. 7 and Dec. 5, both starting promptly at 5:30 p.m. For tickets or free private star shows, contact Zoran Pazameta at (860) 465-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Russell Sampson at (860) 465-0188 or sampsonR@easternct.edu.