The Planetarium and You

The Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium in all its glory

All great things have a beginning, the first steps in creating masterpieces is having an idea. That same method is what goes into presenting a masterpiece in the Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium. Eric Edelman, the Planetarium Coordinator who usually walks his audience through a trip in space, now walks his audience through the new and old endeavors happening at the planetarium. 

When taking that idea for a masterpiece, the planetarium staff uses Digi-Star, which is a “hyper-simplified coding language” according to Edelman, that helps develop the perspectives to flying around during a show seamlessly. This can be a multi-month process with fact-checking, coding, and even music which can make or break an experience. The audience typically will walk in with music used in these productions. Edelman ecstatically comments that with all “the different odds and ends that go into [producing a show]” it can be very amusing to fit all the puzzle pieces together, especially when the show is finished and ready for the public’s eyes. 

Some of the shows are even coded by planetarium staff, which are students who have proven very proficient with their coding skills and forming visual graphics. Together the whole staff generates with an overall goal “to make concentrated content” for whomever the intended viewers may be.

Recently reaching its two-year mark, the planetarium began implementing a new system. It allows the public to pick their seats for a show they choose to attend but at a small fee of $6. Luckily being a part of the Embry-Riddle family still comes with the perk of free tickets all thanks to the Board of Campus Activities (BCA) and other organizations on campus. These groups even work with the planetarium to organize other free events such as the free shows during OctoberWest open to students, faculty, staff and even alumni with the normal public shows on the weekend. 

The rows range from A-G which would allow spectators to pick their favorite spot  “now in the comfort of [their] own seat in [their] own home,” giving them the comfort of a guaranteed spot without the hassle of arriving early with hopes of getting the desired seat(s). With this small fee comes great responsibility, that is that it was put in place to ensure the number of tickets sold is accurate to the seats filled in that particular showing and to also provide funding to bring about new shows, whether they are produced on-site or not, such as a crowd favorite later in the year of laser light shows. 

Edelman believes the planetarium is “building up excitement and momentum to be pushed forward” in the coming years as this new movement comes in. The planetarium experience described by Edelman is that “it is like diving into a whole other world for a bit because being in the dome is this really immersive experience… it sucks you in in this magical way” drawing an audience in with the many wonders of science and entertaining concepts. He likes “creating a feeling of a scientific community [where the audience] can talk about interesting subjects together and learn together.”

Some of the shows already presented this year are Space Next, Our Many Moons, and Beyond Our Solar System: Exploring Alien Worlds. Space Next is a show that is rendered off the Embry-Riddle campus and is bought from a production company. Edelman describes this show as an “evolution from the Wright brothers” that transitions to “where [society] have come from, where [society] might be going next, and the fantastical ways [society] can get there.” 

Then there are shows the planetarium created in house. 

Our Many Moons is a fresh show to the planetarium which debuted in July of this year. The show commemorates the “50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing” and “the different moons around our solar system, not just around our planet but around others. Around objects that are around planets, what we know about them, and what they could mean in terms of our future space exploration.” 

Beyond Our Solar System: Exploring Alien Worlds is about exoplanets, planets outside the Solar System that orbit stars other than our sun, and “the concept of how we first started discovering exoplanets, what we use today to discover the different planets, and what they are like” in terms of “what they hold for our potential future in space exploration,” according to Edelman.

Along with new seating, there are some other new features coming to the planetarium. One of them is a fun new tradition with BCA and the planetarium. Every 3rd Thursday of the month, a different planetarium show will be offered free to the Embry-Riddle family. If there is a show you are interested in seeing, let your BCA representative know so they can try and accommodate the request. Another new feature is a show called Our Friends the Planets, a show directed for a younger audience that is also interactive with songs and hands-on activities. There will also be a reinvented style of lectures that are given along with planetarium visuals coming in November. Edelman hopes “to do more [shows like these] in the future,” which this time would be offered to the public one weekend and then free internally the next so that the lecture can reach the most spectators possible.

The planetarium also works with groups to get the whole community to interact with the campus. Clubs like Society of Physics Students (SPS) provide demonstrations that have a connection with the show viewers just got out of. STEM Outreach also does some after-show presentations with their telescopes to look at the night skies. According to Edelman “because this is becoming a multi-pronged experience, people from lots of walks of life can get lots of different value out of [the planetarium show which] is exciting to see building up,” as the planetarium is playing bigger roles on the Embry-Riddle campus every day.

Edelman is very open to working internally with the Embry-Riddle family by making the planetarium open to an organization if they would like to have a show for their group as long as the planetarium has relevant topics to showcase. This could also be offered to classes if they have a need for it and of course if pertinent topics are available. 

Otherwise, information for internal events are publicized on sandwich boards outside the STEM Building, Building 76. Edelman is open to any suggestions on how to get the Embry-Riddle family the best perks and knowledge of the perks. He can be contacted through his email [edelmane@erau.edu]. Don’t forget the Embry-Riddle family gets free tickets for certain events, just contact the planetarium email for how to go about getting the perks [prplntrm@erau.edu].

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