NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Good news for indoor stargazers, science buffs and anyone who enjoys a spectacular show: The planetarium at New Rochelle High School is getting an upgrade.
A brand-new Spitz SciDome projector mounted on the wall will project sharper video shows of heavens and vast landscapes in high definition.
“It’s going to look bigger and more spectacular because it’s going to be crystal clear,” said astronomy teacher Bruce Zeller, who runs the planetarium. “It’s beautiful.”
The projector will replace an early version of the SciDome installed in 2005. Also, the circular space will hold more viewers with 80 seats replacing the 63 that had been there. Better still, the new seats will recline comfortably to allow visitors to take in the vistas more easily.
Shows in the planetarium are expected to resume in late January. The work is funded partly from the $106.5 million in bond construction funds approved by voters in May 2016.
The room with its star shows has been a community gem for decades. Everyone gets to enjoy it. Zeller teaches four units of astronomy at NRHS. The District’s elementary and middle school classes also visit for presentations, as do other high school science teachers with their classes. For the public, Zeller offers a monthly show throughout the year, and a special holiday season presentation in December on the Northern Lights.
Even with the new features, the planetarium will keep its original “star ball,” the opto-mechanical projector in the center of the domed space that has risen from the floor on command since the star-viewing room opened in 1970.
Zeller plans to continue using the opto-mechanical projector for stationary displays because of the unsurpassed clarity of its images. Also, the moment when the classic projector rises from the floor like a retro sci-fi wonder is part of the drama of the shows.
But the new projector will allow for a range of presentations and exhibitions with background music and narration.
A new entrance will create a smoother experience walking into the space. Visitors will no longer walk past the operator controlling the projector.