Morehead Planetarium and Science Center launches 4k laser projection system

After two years of shows at half capacity, social distancing and masking, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is eager to re-engage audiences with innovative science technologies.

This semester, the center introduced a 4K laser planetarium projection system. The new system has six times the contrast of current systems and delivers six and a half times the brightness, said Rosario Vila, marketing and communications manager for Morehead Planetarium.

“It’s brighter, better contrast and it means our content can stand out even better on the dome and help people learn more about their universe,” said Nick Eakes, astronomy educator at the center.

The planetarium environment is even more improved than it has been in the past, Eakes said. The shows in the dome include detailed and interactive images of the sky at different stages of the day and from different perspectives.

Each presentation also includes a simplified introduction to all things planets, stars, and space. Planetarium educators, like science education specialist Amy Sayle, guide the audience through the preview images, providing details and answering questions along the way.

Sayle said she was amazed when she first saw production of the new projection system. Guest reactions were also filled with enthusiasm, with one group of day-trippers having a particularly memorable reaction.

“They were so blown away,” Sayle said. “They were screaming with excitement, and it’s hard to tell because they were new, so they didn’t know what it was like before, but it seemed like they were really reacting to how lively it was, how point it was good and what it looked like saturn was about to land on their heads.

Another advantage of the 4K laser system is that it should be more reliable and have a longer lifespan. The general hope is that the skies and stars displayed with this advanced technology look more realistic than before, Eakes said.

“It’s pretty amazing with smart phones and all the resolution you can have in your pocket, so we want to be able to track that here and make sure the high quality images they see in the dome are different than what they’re seeing in the dome. that you can just see on the internet and more immersive,” Eakes said.

In addition to the dome function of the Morehead Planetarium, the museum also includes a walkway gallery and a groundbreaking hub focused on highlighting research done at UNC, as well as the history of the planetarium.

With 5,000 square feet of exhibit space, the center is committed to providing the community with a complete hands-on experience, Vila said.

“The idea is to make it very interactive so that we are an informal science education center, which means we engage people with science,” Vila said.

Eakes highlighted the Morehead Planetarium as a resource and place for UNC students, particularly being the first planetarium built on a college campus. The center also offers students $5 discount tickets.

The Morehead Planetarium is open to the public Friday through Sunday with varying hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., depending on the day.

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Arline J. Mercier