New projector allows planetarium to show 360-degree movie

Christian Marnon

The Hardin Planetarium has been sending WKU students and the Bowling Green community on stargazing journeys through interactive shows for years, but their brand new feature “Two Small Pieces of Glass” allows audience members to observe the galaxy in new and exciting ways.

The 25-minute feature “Two Small Pieces of Glass” premiered Feb. 12 and is the first 360-degree movie the Hardin Planetarium has offered.

“Two Small Pieces of Glass” is a free event which will be showcased every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday through March 24. The show is at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. The program is suitable for all ages.

Richard Gelderman, professor of astronomy, said the technology is innovative and unprecedented at WKU.

“It’s different from an IMAX film, because it surrounds you in all directions,” he said.

Gelderman said full-dome capability was made possible by the acquisition of a brand new projector.

“Our old projector was analog; the new one is digital,” he said. “Digital can only interface with a computer, so this allows us to warp the picture and do all sorts of things with shapes and sizes.”

“Two Small Pieces of Glass” was created in 2009 by the International Planetarium Society to honor the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first telescopic observances.

The film follows two teenage students as they learn about the history of telescopes, how they work and some monumental discoveries in astronomy.

Planetarium Coordinator Ronn Kistler serves as moderator for most of the shows. He said each viewing will be interspersed with quick breaks which serve to further illustrate points about telescopes, stars and lighting in the film.

Merardo Arriola, a WKU student from Bowling Green, also attended the premiere and was impressed with the new technology.

“This was my second time here,” he said. “This projector looks much better and makes a big difference.”

Gelderman said the improvement in technology allows for a change in content as well.

“In the past, we would sometimes show PowerPoint slides of stars, and that’s such a waste of the dome,” he said. “This new show and the technology associated enables us to do something different while taking advantage of the full dome.”

Kistler said audience attendance has been increasing at the Hardin Planetarium as of late, and hopes the new show will help preserve that trend.

“In the last month or so, the audience has really been growing, with shows attracting upwards of 60 to 80 people,” he said. “People from different counties are even starting to attend.”

Kistler said the Hardin Planetarium has been reaching out aggressively by inviting students from schools and sending out a mailing list.

“The awareness is spreading, and I’m hoping people are liking what they’re seeing,” he said.