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New GeoDome brings space to earth

Published October 31st, 2013

The UW-River Falls Planetarium, located in the Ag Science building, recently had its dome renovated. The dome is now called the GeoDome Evolver and allows close-ups of planets and cosmic rays.

The UW-River Falls Planetarium, located in the Ag Science building, recently had its dome renovated. The dome is now called the GeoDome Evolver and allows close-ups of planets and cosmic rays. The GeoDome Evolver could also be used for other subjects, including art. (Desi Danforth/Student Voice)

The UW-River Falls Planetarium’s dome was remodeled, and is now referred to as the GeoDome Evolver, including 30270 Projection system and Uniview.

“We sometimes refer to it as the Digital Dome,” said Physics Professor Eileen Korenic.

In 1969, the UWRF Planetarium was built, which was the same year Neil Armstrong stepped foot onto the moon. Armstrong was the first man to the moon, thus completing the Space Race era.

The Planetarium was housed, and still is housed, in the Ag Science building on campus. It was built to project the night sky onto a 20-foot diameter dome.

The Planetarium is primarily used for teaching selected portions of the Physics Introductory Astronomy course.

“Some images are artistically conceived, some images are real,” Korenic said.

The Uniview software, developed by SCISS, is one of the most widely used systems for visualization in dome theaters. SCISS is made up of a group of engineers assembled from the visualization and gaming world. With an integrated video player and rapid production tools, the Uniview software delivers a complete set of tools for dome theaters, according to the SCISS website.

The goal of the GeoDome is to develop new content to show the incredible advances that have fundamentally changed the understanding of the Universe, according to the GeoDome’s website, geodome.info.

“You can look up close at planets and cosmic rays,” said Korenic with excitement.

“As an educator I am partial to the GeoDome’s truncated design,” said Minnesota Planetarium Society founder Joel Halvorson in a statement made on the GeoDome’s capabilities. “Placing the audience closer to the spring line and filling their field of view with imagery creates an increased sense of immersion, and students react to it every time.”

The GeoDome Evolver is found at several other schools in the Midwest.

Some schools with the GeoDome Evolver include Mayo High School, Mankato East High School, Como Elementary School, Southwest Minnesota State University and the University of North Dakota.

Korenic hopes other classes and departments on campus will take advantage of the GeoDome. “It gives 360 degree views of anything we zero in on,” she said. “It is still a work in progress, but we are going to be able to see the Sistine Chapel without even leaving the Planetarium.”

UWRF Physics students are not the only ones who get to experience the space phenomenon found in the UWRF Planetarium. It is now available for group shows to outsiders, under the GeoDome. The Planetarium has a seating capacity of 40 people, so groups can be larger.

Presentations are custom created to fit each group’s preferences. Groups are able to choose from a wide variety of astronomical subjects.

Currently, the UWRF Planetarium is presenting The General Sky Survey. The presentation includes a general overview of earth’s motions, pointing out major constellations, and a tour of the solar system that allows viewers to fly out to the edge of the Universe.

Groups affiliated on campus can reserve the Planetarium for no charge. Outside groups are charged a small fee.

Several more shows are being planned and will be added to this list, on the Planetarium’s website, as they become available.

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