Planetarium show teaches technology

By Destiny Mitchell

Students and guests took a ‘roller coaster ride through space’ on Saturday, Jan. 14, during the first planetarium show of the spring semester.

The feature was an educational program titled “Dawn of the Space Age,” which taught about the advancements made in space technology since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I in 1957.

The film was played on the dome of Strickler Planetarium, placing the audience in the middle of the action.

Afterward, operator Corey Holtz explained the night sky, pointing out and naming several constellations, including Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Orion. Holtz is a senior at Olivet and has been an operator at the planetarium since the fall of 2010.

“My favorite show to operate is probably the Christmas show, “The Stars of Christmas,” he said.

Strickler was constructed in the late 1960s, around the same time that the Reed Hall of Science was built, according to Stephen Case, planetarium director and science professor. These structures were formed to emphasize science education in the days of the space race.

“We’ve been a fixture in the ONU and Bourbonnais community, educating students and the public about astronomy for over 40 years,” Case proudly said.

The program on Jan. 14 ended with a very realistic simulation of a roller coaster ride through space. Using visual and aural stimuli, the animation gave the audience the illusion of actually being in a roller coaster cart careening down the tracks.

“It was scary!” said attendee and freshman JT Cummings.

Attendance for the 9 p.m. showing was low – only seven people.

“Low attendance is sometimes discouraging, but the [Jan. 14] show was not publicized as well as other shows,” Holtz said.

Regardless of the small audience, the program still made a significant impact on those who went.

“The show provided me with a vast new perspective of the Cold War and the race to space,” Cummings said. “I found it very interesting and really entertaining as well.”

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