Tuesday, 30 December 2014 17:35

Buckle Up: Explore Space at Planetarium Shows

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Director of the planetarium and astronomy professor Scott Roby poses inside the planetarium at Shineman Center. Director of the planetarium and astronomy professor Scott Roby poses inside the planetarium at Shineman Center. Jim Russell/SUNY Oswego photo

The planetarium, located in Room 223 of the newly constructed Shineman Center, began weekly shows 10 months out of the year, September to June, when the Shineman Center first opened in the fall of 2013.

In November, viewers were brought “Back To The Moon,” in December they will be introduced to “The Stars Of Winter” with more to come in January through weekly shows in SUNY Oswego’s state-of-the-art planetarium.

“In its first year of operation, the planetarium at SUNY Oswego had over 3,000 visitors and gave 149 shows,” Director of the planetarium and astronomy professor, Scott Roby said.

As director of the planetarium, Roby guides visitors through the planetarium’s shows, designs the shows and comes up with the various topics.

“To design a new show usually involves 40 to 80 hours of work, so I was quite busy last year because every show was new,” Roby said. “Now, I design two or three new shows each year and update and improve some of the older ones along the way.”

When it comes to deciding on a topic for a show, Roby likes to create a healthy mix of topics that appeal to everyone.

“Every three months, at the beginning of each season, I do a more traditional planetarium show with titles like ‘The Stars of Winter,’” Roby said. “These are where I show the daily motion of Earth's sky and how to find the brightest stars, planets and constellations in the evening sky and note the ancient mythology behind some of them. In between the seasonal shows, I do more science-oriented shows with topics such as ‘Rendezvous With a Comet,’ ‘Exoplanets,’ ‘Galaxies’ and ‘The Secret Lives of Stars.’”

Some months, Roby will mix a self-created show and a professionally produced show together. The November show of “Back To The Moon” utilized this technique.

The first half of the show was designed by Roby as a personal reflection on the space race while the second half of the show was a full-dome show, narrated by actor Tim Allen, about the future of space travel. However, Roby says this format is not typical of the planetarium.

“The commercially produced shows are expensive, and we only have a few, so they are shown about two or three times a year,” Roby said. “Most shows are completely local creations, which means you will not see them anywhere else.”

The planetarium is uniquely suited for creating the visually stunning shows Roby creates with its new digital projector. Unlike older projectors, SUNY Oswego’s is able to show the sky from anywhere in the universe.

“Many of these demos are not possible in older, traditional planetariums,” Roby said. “They only show the sky seen from Earth.”

The planetarium can hold up to 50 audience members and attracts a variety of students and community members, some as far away as Rochester, to its Sunday evening showings.

“Seating is limited, so we advise people to arrive early,” Roby said. “Attendance varies, but usually we range from half full to full. On the few occasions when we have a large overflow crowd, I usually arrange a second encore show right after the scheduled show.”

Planetarium shows will continue through June every Sunday at 7 p.m. The show’s topic changes every month, and the topic for the month can be found on SUNY Oswego’s events calendar.

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