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Planetarium joins "Fulldome Revolution" at Hastings Museum

Photo courtesy of Hastings Tribune.Planetarium director Dan Glomski adjusts a spherical mirror for a fulldome demonstration held in September 2008.

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HASTINGS, Neb. – In January, the planetarium at the Hastings Museum will begin a major renovation, converting to a new presentation technology: fulldome video. The facility will be closed for about two months for the renovation.

Fulldome video involves covering the entire dome with a single video image. Imagine riding aboard the Cassini spacecraft as it orbits Saturn. Or taking a one-way journey into a black hole. Or touring the Virgo Supercluster of galaxies. It’s all possible in fulldome, where the viewer becomes part of the scene.

While several methods of projecting fulldome exist, the planetarium will use a method sometimes called “Mirrordome”, invented by Paul Bourke, now at the University of Western Australia at Perth. In Mirrordome, a specially “warped” video image from a computer is outputed to a video projector. The image is then reflected from a spherical mirror onto the dome. The warping of the image compensates for different path lengths, brightnesses, etc., resulting in a smooth, evenly-bright image over nearly the entire dome surface.

In addition to the fulldome equipment, a new cove light system (capable of projecting any color), an enhanced sound system, and a second video projector for PowerPoint presentations will be part of the renovation. The dome’s surface will be smoothed and repainted to produce the best video image possible.

Some longstanding technology will disappear, namely the slide and special effects projectors that ring the outside of the dome. That’s going to take some getting used to, according to planetarium director Dan Glomski: “Slide projectors have given such dedicated service to planetaria for so long that it will feel strange to be without them, at least initially.”

“On the other hand, fulldome is a far more dynamic technology, and in many ways simpler to produce and present as well.”

So what about the Minolta star projector in the center, a mainstay since 1980? According to Glomski, “These old star projectors still put up a more realistic sky than video, so we’ll use it in conjunction with PowerPoint for our live tours of the sky. It will be around at least for a time.”

Overall though, “Fulldome is the biggest change in our planetarium since it was built over fifty years ago,” Glomski says. In the process, it will become the third fulldome facility in the state, joining the Mueller Planetarium in Lincoln and the King Science and Technology Magnet School in Omaha.

The final pre-renovation shows will be offered January 11. A reopening in late March is tentatively scheduled.


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