Projector Gives Planetarium New Focus

Photo By Dana Schmerzler

The John R. Kirk Planetarium recently unveiled its new digital projector at a public showing.

The event, held on Thursday, April 11, was preceded by a V.I.P. reception and showing, which was attended by the College’s cabinet, deans, chairs of the School of Science and Engineering, members of the advisory committee and members of the local community with ties to the planetarium.

Raj Pandya, planetarium coordinator and lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, said the new projector will allow observers to completely understand what they are seeing, but also astronomy in general.

“I think it will be most useful in that people can get a better sense of the study of astronomy,” Pandya said. “It just has more features than the old equipment and you get a better sense of what’s actually happening in the sky.”

In addition to creating an updated and higher quality planetarium show, Pandya said this projector enables students to learn how to use equipment they will likely be required to operate if they are employed at a planetarium in the future.

Willie K. Yee, president of the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association, said he is pleased with the new projector because it has more features than the old projector.

“We’re very excited about the new projector,” Yee said. “It has capabilities that the old one did not and looks to be a very useful tool to teach people things about the sky and observing.”

Pandya said the new digital projector was paid for through a new tuition allocation fund on campus, which he applied for last spring, and it cost “approximately $40,000.”

The old projector will also stay in the planetarium, which Yee said he is happy about  because of the benefits to having both.

“I’m also glad that we’re keeping the old projector,” Yee said. “It has some capabilities that the new one doesn’t, so they really complement each other.  The old one really presents a very realistic feel of the sky and pinpoints stars.  The new one can do all kinds of manipulation and close-ups and things that the old one couldn’t do.”

Overall, Pandya said the new projector is a valuable addition because he feels that it puts the planetarium on the same level as other museums.

“Everyone I’ve talked to enjoys it a lot,” Pandya said. “I think it’s technology that basically needs to be in a college environment. So, it’s basically like we’re just now getting up to speed with what a lot of other museums have.  It is high quality and it’s a major, major jump in improvement, so I’m very happy about it.”

The new projector will be used during “Astronomy Nights,” a series of public planetarium shows and observatory viewings.  The last two “Astronomy Nights” of the semester will take place on Thursday, May 2 and Thursday, May 16.