A Planetarium Preview

By Amanda Joerndt

The Ward Beecher Planetarium provides students and community members with lifelike sky shows using the new high-tech systems.

The planetarium at Youngstown State University runs several shows a semester with diverse content in each show.

One of the newest shows featured at the planetarium, “Explore Our Universe LIVE!” is run with the most up-to-date equipment for audience members to engage in and choose where they want to travel throughout the show.

Until last year, the planetarium shows were running on pre-recorded content and then being aired for audience members to watch.

The new theater system now has six high-end graphic computers to create new content for the shows and allow audience members to have a connection with the shows meaning.

Curt Spivey, planetarium engineer, said the new system will allow audience members to be a part of the show which is something that has never been done before.

“With the new system, we have the ability to do things in real time in the theatre,” Spivey said. “What we plan on doing with this show is the audience comes and gives their input on where they want to travel and what they want to see.”

Allowing audience members to use their imagination throughout the show and open their minds to new places within our universe was the goal.

Spivey said it is important for people to understand that watching these shows and learning new material can be an impactful experience.

“Really what we’re trying to do is show that science is cool,” he said. “We’re really trying to pique interest and make people not only come back to the planetarium but explore more.”

Nick Deluca, a senior physics and astronomy major, works with the staff in the planetarium as a student employee where he helps create content for the shows.

Deluca said working at the planetarium has helped him learn more in his field and about the night sky in general.

“I’ve definitely gained a better understanding from how our solar system works and the different constellations which I’ve also translated to the classroom,” he said.

The planetarium also features their signature shows throughout the semester such as, “Earth, Moon and Sun,” “Sky Wars — Battle of Discovery” and “The Little Star That Could.”

Experiencing the planetarium can be beneficial for any individual, regardless of  age.

Patrick Durrell, physics and astronomy professor and director of the Ward Beecher Planetarium,, said the planetarium is a place for visual learning and wanting to know more about our planet.

“A lot of people grow up with some interest in understanding the night sky and we want to give them the maximum possible experience when doing that,” Durrell said. “We are interested in having the latest technology and the newest shows to share in the discovery in all the wonderful things that are out there.”

The planetarium gives students and community members other opportunities to expand their knowledge besides the featured weekly shows.

Lecture series with presentations from astronomers and special events such as “Rock the Dome” music shows are open to the public through the school year for family fun and entertainment.