Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014
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Projector makes planetarium one of state's best

The current interior of Seminole State's Planetarium will be completely refurbished as part of $153,000 in upgrades that include a new fisheye projection system.

The Planetarium at Seminole State College of Florida is undergoing renovations this month that will make it one of the most advanced planetariums in the state.

A $153,000 grant from the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust is funding upgrades that include adaptable seating and a new LED lighting system.

The centerpiece of the renovations is a fisheye projection system that will allow the planetarium, which is marking its 25th anniversary, to use content from any discipline – from space science to earth science to oceanology – and present it on the dome.

“Without a doubt, this is the single biggest addition since we opened in 1987,” says Planetarium Director Derek Demeter. “The fisheye system will single-handedly transform how our planetarium operates.”

Uniview, a new software program the planetarium is using, offers simulation of the entire universe. Because the software is connected to the Internet, the planetarium will be able to upload live data from NASA and other science organizations in real time, a great advantage for Seminole County science teachers who use the planetarium as a resource.

“Paired with our existing Minolta star projector,” Demeter says, “the two systems will give us incredible flexibility in producing and presenting shows that will continue to push the limits of what a small planetarium can do.”

In addition, Demeter hopes to open the planetarium to more student activities such as game nights and concerts.

“With our new LED lighting system for the dome, we’ll be able to customize the color and create lighting effects for shows, concerts and other events,” he says. “Only state-of-the-art planetariums have this; not a lot of small ones do.”

The planetarium, which has been closed for December during the renovations, will reopen Jan. 11 with two shows. “The Story of the Universe,” which has been enhanced to showcase the new technology, will be presented at 7 p.m.; the planetarium’s flagship show, “Central Florida Nights,” will be presented at 8:30 p.m.

Other upgrades funded by the Buehler grant include:

  • More comfortable and adaptable seating
  • Newly upholstered acoustic panels along the walls of the facility
  • Replacement of fluorescent bulbs with more efficient LED bulbs that will reduce the planetarium's energy use
  • New carpet and paint

The Seminole State Planetarium holds public shows on Friday and Saturday evenings. Its weekday “Seminole Space Science” series makes the planetarium a popular field trip for Seminole County elementary school students. For more information and a full show schedule, please visit the planetarium website, or call 407.708.2360.

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