New carpet!

•March 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The planetarium is starting to look like a planetarium again . . .  The new carpet has been installed in the workroom and under the dome.  Olivet electricians and carpenters have been working to get everything ready for the Digistar installation (set to begin on April 14th).  They are constructing a new control console as well as a (beautiful) platform for the projector.  In addition, the workroom renovations are nearly complete.  The walls have been painted (dark blue to cut down on light leaking into the dome) and the cabinets are hung.

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New projector platform (notice the new carpet!)

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The new workroom

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Reed Hall Observatory

•March 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Besides all the activity in the planetarium lately (more pictures of which I’ll have soon), the campus observatory has been active as well.  Thanks to our local technician, telescope expert, and astronomy enthusiast, Steve Bell, I am being (re)trained in its operation, and we’re working on getting some of the vibrational ‘bugs’ out of the system.  Steve and I were able to open the telescope up to astronomy students last night and take some beautiful images. 

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Waxing crescent moon

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Orion Nebula

Both of these images were taken with an ST8 CCD camera mounted on a 102 millimeter Astelle telescope.  The top is an adjusted 0.01 second exposure, and the bottom image was compiled from four 5-minute exposures using various color filters.  The observatory is mounted on the roof of Reed Hall of Science, right next door to the planetarium.  I’ll post more images of the observatory itself and info about our set-up soon . . . 

Better late than never . . .

•March 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I’ve neglected to give any accounting of our lunar eclipse observing party here at the planetarium.  Actually, with the night being as cold as it was, someone had the great idea of having the observing down the road from campus behind the coffee shop.  That way students could go in and out and we could all have warm drinks.  And it was cold!  Someone told me that astronomers didn’t feel the cold.  If that’s the case, I must be a pretty lousy astronomer (or just have pretty lousy gloves), because my fingers were so numb I could barely work the telescope.

We had five faculty members out with a camera and at least four telescopes.  Over a hundred students came and went during the period we were set up (from about 7:30 to 10).  Besides the eclipse itself, Saturn and Mars were visible, and we also got some nice views of the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula.  Of course, some of the students stayed barely long enough to glance at the moon and race back inside for a cup of coffee, but it was gratifying to hear the occasional gasps as people saw Saturn through a telescope for the first time.  I think that’s one of the nice things about events like a lunar eclipse: it gets people looking up.  And when people look up they see things besides the moon, things that were there anyway but that they otherwise would have missed. 

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A couple pictures . . .

•February 29, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Thanks to Rick Pirko, one of the workers who painted our dome, for sending along these images.  The first shows a composite before-and-after picture of the dome surface.  The second is an image he took outside the planetarium the night of the lunar eclipse (while the rest of us were down the road observing it from the parking lot of, fittingly enough, Moon Monkey cafe) and adjusted with Photoshop.  Thanks, Rick!

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Before and after

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Lunar eclipse

A Painted Dome . . .

•February 25, 2008 • 1 Comment

The dome has been completely cleaned and painted, thanks to the good folks from Ash Enterprises.  The new grey color seemed a bit jarring at first, but once the dome was completed it looked (looks) great.  (Digital projectors require domes with a lower reflectivity than opto-mechanical projectors, thus the grey color instead of a white.)  And the cleaning took years of dust off the dome.  It looks thirty years younger . . .

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Before . . .

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Cleaning the dome

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The new color and the old . . .

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The finished dome 

No seats, no Spitz, no problem . . .

•February 20, 2008 • 2 Comments

Well, I guess we’ve passed the point of no return here at Strickler Planetarium.  The workers from Ash Enterprises arrived this Sunday to begin disassembling our star projector and console.  The work went so quickly that I didn’t have time to snap any pictures until they were completely gone.  Now the salvageable pieces have been boxed up and mailed off, and the non-salvageable pieces have been thrown away.  Campus workers also came in and removed the old carpet and the shelf that ran along the bottom of the dome and held the now-unnecessary slide projectors.  They also began putting up the cabinets in the workroom.  (It’s been a busy couple of days.)  The workers from Ash remain and are currently cleaning and painting the interior of the dome.

Next on the list of things to do is install the new carpet and the seats before the new star projector arrives.  But first . . . tonight’s lunar eclipse!

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The planetarium is empty (and messy).

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The Spitz is gone.

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The console is gone.

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The workroom cabinets are being hung.

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The dome is being cleaned and painted.

Working in the Workroom . . .

•February 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The workroom is the behind-the-scenes ‘brain’ of the planetarium.  It’s where shows are developed and where most of the multimedia equipment and supplies are housed.  It’s a part of the renovations that won’t be apparent to casual planetarium visitors but will definitely be of great help to the operators.  Here are some images of what’s happening now.  All the old countertops and carpet have been ripped out, and the new cabinets have been brought in and are ready to put into place.  The outer wall of the room will have cabinets and two computer work stations.  The inner wall will be kept empty and will be where the servers for the new digital projector are placed.

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 The workroom
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New cabinets