YSU Planetarium Gets $650,000 from NASA Program

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Ward Beecher Planetarium at Youngstown State University will receive $650,000 from a NASA cooperative agreement to develop full-dome video and 3-D animation materials for the CosmoQuest program.

The funding will pay for the hiring of a content designer and a student to create videos and images, along with upgrades to the computing system and a new video camera system for the planetarium.

The funding is part of a five-year, $11.5 million NASA cooperative agreement with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for the university to expand CosmoQuest, an online virtual research system used by scientists, educators and software developers at eight colleges and several other partners, including the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Lawrence Hall of Science, the Johnson Space Center and the McDonald Observatory.

“YSU and the staff of the planetarium are thrilled and honored to be part of this project that will help educate and entertain people worldwide,” said Patrick Durrell, the planetarium director and professor of astronomy. “Our participation in this project is a clear indication of the Ward Beecher Planetarium as a respected and notable science facility.”

YSU joined the CosmoQuest program in 2012 when it developed its first full-dome movie, “Cosmic Castaways.” In 2013, the planetarium made full-dome images of telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii available to other planetaria around the world for free.

Durrell noted that the $650,000 award is “a continuation and expansion” of that work. In the future, Ward Beecher Planetarium videos and images of “citizen science projects” developed by members of CosmoQuest.

“With this funding, CosmoQuest will be able to grow from a seedling full of potential into a mighty tree that supports science and learning opportunities,” said Pamela Gay, the program’s lead project director and professor at SIU. “We are bringing new partners with added expertise and we couldn’t be prouder of this team.”

Pictured: A full view of the Gemini Telescope at Mauna Kea in Hawaii taken by Patrick Durrell. 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.