Planetarium reaches for the stars with upgrades

Thanks to a generous donation by former board member Conrad Fowler, Eastern University’s planetarium is receiving an upgrade.

Its waning optical-mechanical projector will be replaced with a new digital projector run by computer. The SciDome projector, created by Starry Night, is state of the art and one of only about 35 of its kind, according to Dr. David Bradstreet.

It will be arriving in November of this year and be up and running by January 2007, Bradstreet said.

A new projector has been a goal of the astronomy department for some time.

“Our planetarium is 34 years old,” Bradstreet, professor of physical science and director of the Bradstreet Observatory at Eastern said, “and the company doesn’t even exist anymore that built the projector. The projector is falling apart.”

The upgrade is being funded both by Fowler’s donation and the physical science department’s Star Power account.

The account was started by education professor Helen Craymer, who made a generous donation after the building of the Bradstreet Observatory in 1996. Its goal is to raise funds for a $2 million planetarium in Eastern’s new science building.

“[Fowler] is a staunch supporter of science and Eastern in many ways,” Bradstreet said. “He gave us $70,000 so that we could purchase the projector, so we’d have a state-of-the-art planetarium to get us through the next 10 years.”

The new planetarium will be officially named the Janet Fowler Planetarium at Eastern University, after Fowler’s wife, who passed away a couple of years ago, according to Bradstreet.

“My goal for Eastern has always been that we would be the astronomical education center of the Delaware Valley,” Bradstreet said, “and when people say ”Eastern’ they think, there’s astronomy teaching.”

“Eastern’s gifted science faculty and students need state of the art facilities so that graduates can serve God and society effectively as scientists,” President David Black said in an email. “There is so much they must know in order to connect the best science and theology. Our facilities are not yet what they should be, but this planetarium hardware is an important step in that direction.”

“This is a wonderful example of how God brings together his glory, anointed teachers, inspired students and prayerful stewards to expand our understanding of the universe,” Black said.

Christopher Plumberg, a sophomore astronomy major, said that the new planetarium will add a whole new way of experiencing the universe.

“This new piece of technology will help people to appreciate God’s splendor in a way that is nothing short of stunning,” he said in an email. “We can do almost anything with this new equipment. Bottom line: the sky really is the limit.”

“The planetarium is going to be something we’re excited to use rather than reluctant to use,” Bradstreet said.

Starry display planned for McInnis lobby

Soon the lobby of McInnis will help students keep in mind the observatory crowning the academic building.

Thanks to an agreement with the company Space Telescope, a program called ViewSpace will display information from a wide range of astronomical topics on a large TV set inside a glass case 24 hours a day.

Software is already in place. The final set up of the equipment is coming soon. Students will be able to enjoy high quality graphics and information updated daily by Space Telescope. The ViewSpace program is used mostly in museums.

Information compiled by Petra Eldridge, staff writer.

Information provided by David Bradstreet.

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