YSU Planetarium Installs New Projection System

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Youngstown State University’s Ward Beecher Planetarium unveiled a new full-dome projection system Thursday that will be put in service as it opens its 2017-2018 season today.

The new system features state-of-the-art pixel resolution and surround sound quality and that allows for real-time, on-the-fly visualizations of astronomical objects.

“Even our regular visitors will immediately notice the difference with the new system; it is that impressive,” said Curt Spivey, planetarium engineer.

The planetarium marks its 50th anniversary this year. Hundreds of YSU students attend classes at the planetarium every year, and several thousand children from schools throughout the region visit the facility annually.

In 2005, the planetarium was one of the first in Ohio to embrace the new full-dome video technology, allowing for full-dome shows that became an integral part of YSU’s introductory astronomy courses and public programs. After a dozen years, the system was in need of an upgrade, and the new Definiti 4K system from SkySkan was installed this summer.

The system uses six computers to power a pair of Sony 4K laser-phosphor projectors to display 4096 by 4096 pixel images on the planetarium dome — 16 times more than the system it replaces. The improvements also include an upgrade to the sound system.

“The capabilities of this new digital projection systems are nothing short of breathtaking,” said Pat Durrell, astronomy professor and planetarium director. “It means a completely new educational and entertainment experience for our students and visitors.”

The new equipment also allows for rapid access to updated content to keep up with the endless discoveries made in astronomy, such as flying over planetary landscapes, moving through the Milky Way, or viewing the universe on the largest scales. In addition, it allows for remote access to real-time visualizations.

“This means that we can use the dome to travel anywhere in the universe in a matter of seconds,” said Tiffany Wolbrecht, planetarium lecturer.

The upgrade was funded by gifts from Warren and Sandy Young, the Ward Beecher and Florence Simon Beecher Foundations, and the Nathalie and James Andrews Foundation.

For more information, including the 2017-18 show schedule, visit the planetarium website.

VIDEO: Sept. 20, 2017 Daily BUZZ: A Trip to the Stars

Pictured at top: Curt Spivey, planetarium engineer, works the controls of the new system at Ward Beecher Planetarium.

Source: YSU News Service.

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