EKU hopes reopened planetarium will shine new interest in sciences

05/30/2015 09:15 AM

RICHMOND — Eastern Kentucky University hopes that their newly reopened and upgraded Hummel Planetarium will continue to serve as effective educational resource for not only it’s college students, but elementary and high school students around the state.

Eastern Kentucky University reopened the facility on May 21 after spending the last two years upgrading the 27-year old facility.

The university contracted with SkyScan, a company which specializes in planetarium equipment, to design a new Definiti system which combines usage of projectors, computers, lenses and computer graphics to maximize image quality and performance, totally immersing the audience in a 360-degree environment during presentations.

The $160,000 cost of the project came out of EKU’s general fund.

Hummel planetarium manager James Hughes says the upgrade allows the planetarium to present state of the art shows that will “wow” the viewer.

“It allows us to do a lot of different things that we used to couldn’t do,” Hughes said. “Let’s us fly around in space. We could usually put a lot of stuff on the dome but couldn’t actually kind of go there. You can go there in real time now.”

EKU’s director of conferencing and events, Jill Price, says that an important mission of the Hummel Planetarium is community outreach through public shows as well as school field trips.

“It’s a great way to introduce students to EKU when they’re younger,” Price said. “Hopefully, they’ll want to continue, since they’ve seen what EKU has to offer. We probably had an average of 15,000 students a year that would come through, just public school children.”

Dr. Anthony Blose, chair of EKU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, says that one of the benefits of having a state of the art planetarium is that it can spur interest in science.

“When you see the kinds of images and motions that we can project on this planetarium dome, that can’t help but turn you on,” Blose said. “I think we get a lot of students who become interested in physics and astronomy because of facilities like this. The turn on part is so important to get people involved in the beginning.”

The Hummel Planetarium has two public presentations on Saturdays with a children/family feature at noon and the main feature at 1:30 pm. The presentations consist of pre-packaged shows along with a live sky show presentation which gives patrons a look at the current sky and pointing out what there is to see.

Because the new upgrade eliminated the use of the old star globes, 30 additional seats were added to areas where the old globes were located, increasing the capacity to 194 seats.

For information on the latest public shows or booking a school field trip, visit their website at www.planetarium.eku.edu.


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