See Planetarium News for the latest news about the planetarium. See Planetarium Upgrades for information about completed and planned upgrades. See Astronomy Open Houses for information about public planetarium visits and telescope viewing.
Thanks to the generosity of the Long Beach City College Foundation and its donors, the planetarium planned for a decade has been installed in Room D326, on the LAC campus. The planetarium is primarily used for LBCC astronomy classes, and has 84 seats and four additional locations for wheelchairs. Astronomical images are projected onto a thirty-five foot diameter hemispherical dome suspended over the seating in the room. This size dome is fairly large for a college planetarium. The dome consists of curved epoxy powder coated aluminum panels that act as a projection screen. The panels are supported by a structural steel framework behind the panels, and the panels are perforated with small holes so that sound can pass through them.
An overall view of the planetarium. The curved rows of seats are oriented toward the front of the planetarium dome. The planetarium entrance and exit is at the upper left. The large box is the projector pedestal with the planetarium projector mounted on top of it.
A photo of a portion of the dome during a full dome video presentation. The distortion seen in this rectangular picture is not present in the projected image on the curved hemispherical dome.
A view of the planetarium from the right side of the audience. The planetarium exit and entrance is at the upper left. The seating has retractable tablet arm writing surfaces.
A view of the planetarium from the left side of the audience. The curved operator's console is at the left and the lower part of the projection dome is above. The lower seat cushions automatically return to upright on the seating.
A photo of a portion of the dome during a presentation showing the celestial sphere, the ecliptic, stars and constellation stick figures.
The projector is mounted on top of the projector pedestal with the protective lens cap in place. The curved rows of seating have a seatback angle that varies from 35 degrees tilt in the front row to 20 degrees tilt in the back row, so that all audience members are looking at the lower portion of the front of the projection dome.
Images are projected onto the dome by a 1400X1400 pixel full-dome full-color digital-projection system, the Evans and Sutherland Digistar 3 SP2, which was installed in mid-August of 2006. Traditional opto-mechanical projectors can only display stars, constellations and planets as viewed from the earth at the current time or in the near past and future. Such projectors do not take into account the long term motion of stars through space, and are not able to display astronomical objects as viewed from various points (other than the earth) in three dimensional (3D) space. Our new digital projection system can display stars, constellations and planets not only as seen from earth, but also as seen from any chosen viewpoint in 3D space. It can accurately portray what the sky will look like thousands or millions of years in the future, and what the sky looked like thousands or millions of years in the past. It can also project a wide array of astronomical objects in addition to planets and stars. In fact, the Digistar 3 SP2 can project onto the dome anything the human mind can conceive, and a graphics program can construct. Only time, effort, and money limit the views that students and visitors to our planetarium will enjoy. The Digistar 3 SP2 projector is mounted on a sturdy pedestal at the center of the room, and projects a fulldome image through a large fisheye lens. The projector is operated from a curved console at the front of the room, through a single computer interface.
The Digistar 3 SP2 projector mounted on the projector pedestal and surrounded by a protective fence. The fisheye lens is visible on the projector. The projector pedestal and fence were built by Professor Sholle.
The Digistar 3 SP2 projector cabinet with its cover removed. The SP2 projector cabinet actually contains two projectors, one of which is visible in this photo. The images produced by the two projectors are optically (and electronically) blended to create one seamless fulldome projected image.
The Digistar 3 SP2 projector cabinet from above with its cover and projection lens cap removed. The two internal projectors are visible, as is the large fisheye lens that projects a fulldome image on to the hemispherical planetarium dome.
The operator's console at the front of the room. A curved wooden shelf will be added to the top edge to finish it off. The operator's console was built by Professor Sholle.
The monitor, keyboard and other controls at the console that are used to operate the Digistar 3 SP2. The dark hood on the monitor was added to keep light from the monitor from "spilling" onto the dome.
A Bowen Technovation multi-thousand watt 5.1 channel surround sound system was installed in early September of 2006. There are five speakers (center, front-left, front-right, rear-left and rear-right) mounted behind the dome surface, which project sound into the planetarium through the perforated dome panels. In addition, there is a subwoofer, which handles extreme bass frequencies. The sound system can amplify the professor's voice, play music from a CD or other source, and can play a soundtrack as part of a planetarium show. A supplementary LCD projector mounted at the rear of the dome is used to project Powerpoint and Web-based presentations on the front of the dome. The planetarium uses all electronic presentation and does not even have a whiteboard.
The planetarium is being used by Professors Seligman and Sholle for LBCC astronomy classes. In October 2006 Professor Seligman resumed his Astronomy Open Houses. These include a planetarium presentation at the start of the evening, and weather permitting, a telescope observing session on the roof of the building, after the planetarium presentation. The planetarium will also be used for occasional LBCC Foundation meetings and fund-raisers, and it is anticipated that eventually, regular public shows and a K-12 outreach program will be initiated, presuming adequate funding and staffing are available.