After two years of half-capacity shows, social distancing and masking, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is eager to re-engage the public with innovative science technologies.
This semester, the center has introduced a 4K laser planetarium projection system. The new system has six times the contrast of current systems and offers six-and-a-half times the brightness, said Rosario Vila, manager of marketing and communications for Morehead Planetarium.
“It’s brighter, better contrast and it means our content can come off even better on the dome and help people know their universe better,” said Nick Eakes, astronomy educator at the center.
The medium of the planetarium is even more enhanced than it has been in the past, Eakes said. Shows in the dome include detailed and interactive images of the sky at various stages in a day and from different perspectives.
Each presentation also includes a simplified introduction to all things planets, stars and space. Educators at the planetarium, such as Amy Sayle, a science education specialist, walk the audience through the images previewed, providing details and answering questions along the way.
Sayle said she was amazed when she first saw the production of the new projection system. Reactions from guests have also been filled with excitement, with one field trip group having a particularly memorable reaction.
“They were so blown away by it,” Sayle said. “They were screaming with excitement, and it's hard to know because they were new so they didn't know what it looked like before but it seemed like they were really reacting to how vivid it was, how good it looked and that it looked like Saturn was about to land on their head.”
Another advantage of the 4K laser system is that it is expected to be more reliable and have a longer lifetime. The overall hope is that the sky and stars displayed through this advanced technology look more realistic than before, said Eakes.
“It’s kind of amazing with smart phones and all of that the resolution you can have in your pocket, so we want to be able to keep up with that here and make sure that the high-quality images they see in the dome are different than what you can just see on the internet and more immersive,” Eakes said.
In addition to Morehead Planetarium's dome feature, the museum also includes a gateway gallery and a breakthrough hub focused on highlighting research being done at UNC, along with the history of the planetarium.
With 5,000 square feet of exhibit space, the center is committed to providing the community with a comprehensive, hands-on experience, said Vila.
“The whole idea is to make it very interactive so that we are an informal science education center which means we’re engaging folks with science,” said Vila.
Eakes emphasized Morehead Planetarium as a resource and place for UNC students, especially being the first planetarium built on a college campus. The center also offers students $5 discount tickets.
Morehead Planetarium is open to the public Friday through Sunday with varying hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., depending on the day.
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