Windward Community College planetarium provides a stunning perspective on outer space
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Mar 26, 2011
The Hokulani Imaginarium viewers immerse themselves in scenes of space whether they're falling through a black hole or witnessing the beginnings of the universe, said Joseph Ciotti, director of Windward Community College's Center for Aerospace Education.
The planetarium was recently upgraded with digital "fulldome" technology, providing a 360-degree environment. The upgraded projection system displays three-dimensional stereo images on a screen with high-resolution images that are eight times sharper than high-definition television.
"(The three-dimensional technology) allows audiences to travel beyond the earth, to explore our neighboring planets up close, to fly through star fields and gaseous nebulas and to journey to the most distant galaxies in the observable universe," Ciotti said. "This fulldome projector system immerses the audience is a true 360-degree environment of surround sound and animated visual graphics. Unlike a traditional movie theater with rectangular screens, the Imaginarium's entire dome is filled with motion images."
The planetarium was closed for about four months to accommodate the upgrades, reopening last October. "Besides tours through the universe, this new technology enhances the Imaginarium's goal of offering scientific visualization experiences beyond just what a planetarium is capable of showing. Our premiere show incorporated Maya culture, art and architecture with their concept of the heavens," he said. "Our next major show will give audience a vicarious experience of what it's like being an astronaut."
Future shows may focus on biology, Ciotti said, for instance using a film such as "Natural Selection," which relates the story of Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands.
Once funds are secured, the Imaginarium's original projector, which is in the center of the theater, will be removed and an additional 20 seats will be installed, bringing the seating capacity to nearly 90.
Upcoming shows include:
» Earth, Moon and Sun: Coyote, an amusing character adapted from Native American oral traditions, presents an exploration of the relationship between the earth, moon and sun. Lunar phases, sunrises and sunsets, eclipses, space travel to the moon and more are featured during the presentation. Native American tales are also shared throughout the show. Suitable for children in kindergarten to grade 6. Shows on May 27 and June 24.
» Astronaut: Attendees experience a rocket launch from an astronaut's point of view. Floating around the International Space Station, the dangers that lurk in space are found by "Chad," the test astronaut. The show is narrated by Ewan McGregor. Designed for grades 4 and up. Shows on April 8, May 13 and June 10.
» Stargazing: Live star shows are held on the second Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. Learn how to identify the constellations, listen to mythological stories and receive updates on current celestial occurrences. Suitable for all ages.
All shows begin at 7 p.m. Admission is $7; $6 for University of Hawaii students, military or seniors over 65; $5 for children, ages 4-12. Call 235-7433 for reservations or information. Reserved tickets must be picked up at the box office at least 15 minutes before showtime, otherwise they may be sold to waiting customers. Tickets may be purchased at the Imaginarium box office 30 minutes before the show, or call for reservations. The Lanihuli Observatory is open after Wednesday and Friday night shows, weather permitting.