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Projector opens up new worlds at planetarium

Dr. Joe Jones, associate professor of physics, uses the new DigiStar 5 Full Dome Digital Planetarium Projector recently installed in the George E. Coleman Sr. Planetarium at the University of North Georgia.

When the George E. Coleman Sr. Planetarium at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Dahlonega Campus resumes public shows in January, a new DigiStar 5 Full Dome Digital Planetarium Projector will allow visitors to view an accurate depiction of the night skies from planets millions of miles away.

"The Digistar 5 is a single projector system that uses a 'fisheye' type lens to project an extremely high resolution image onto our 30-foot diameter dome," said Dr. Joe Jones, associate professor of physics. "The old system depicted the sky only as seen from Earth, although using special effects we could make it seem like we were somewhere else. The new system can accurately depict the sky from a planet orbiting a star thousands of light years away. We can fly to other planets in the solar system, land and look around, or fly through the Milky Way Galaxy and even out to the edge of the observable universe.  We can also play full dome immersive videos, which are like iMax movies, on the dome."

The planetarium held demo shows for the system earlier in December, and will begin regular Observatory-Planetarium Public Education Night (OPEN) shows using the system beginning Jan. 9.  These free public shows are presented every Friday evening at 8 p.m. when the university is in session.

Jones said the new projector also can engage students who are studying subjects other than astronomy and physics.

"The new system has capabilities far beyond the old opto-mechanical Spitz system, and may be used for educational purposes for a wide variety of disciplines," Jones said. "Video projection combined with a multi-media computer and access to the Internet enable the planetarium presentations to incorporate the latest imagery and video from the astronomical community, NASA, and UNG's own observatory, but there are also many potential videos available for disciplines such as biology, paleontology, archaeology and even other non-science disciplines including history and art." 

The Coleman Planetarium is housed in the Health & Natural Sciences Building, located on Sunset Drive on the Dahlonega Campus.  The planetarium, which seats 46 people, is located in room 234 on the second floor of the atrium section behind the large lecture hall.

"The new projection system will enhance the amount and quality of content that we can show our guests," said Dr. Richard Prior, head of UNG's Department of Physics. "The planetarium is an important link between our university and the community.  It offers an accurate, enjoyable means for people to learn about our planet and the universe surrounding us. We look forward to having community members join us as we explore our solar system, galaxy and universe in high resolution."

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