By Cynthia Hubert
When gazing at the cosmos from a seat in the new Sacramento State planetarium, one can easily forget that it's a movie up on the screen overhead.
An ultra-high definition, 360-degree tour of the solar system can feel so real that it can spur moments of motion sickness, said planetarium director Kyle Watters. And soon, members the public will be able to go along for that authentic-feeling ride.
Already serving as a lecture hall for science students, the planetarium is on the cusp of hosting its first public shows.
A documentary titled “Two Small Pieces of Glass” will air at the 120-seat planetarium multiple times on Friday, Sept. 20, and Saturday, Sept. 21. Tickets are $5 for adults and free to Sac State students and children ages 12 and younger.
Tickets soon will be available via reservation through the Hornet Ticket Office. Show schedules will be posted to the planetarium’s website.
The planetarium, a centerpiece of the state-of-the-art Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex, offers a window into space that most visitors likely never have experienced, Watters said. Beyond astronomy shows, audiences will be taken on historical and geological expeditions, among other places.
“IMAX has nothing on us,” said Watters, referring to the theater chain that shows 3D movies on giant screens. “IMAX is great, but it’s still a big rectangle. We have a 360-degree dome that makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of things.”
Public shows will run from 20 to 45 minutes and will be aired several times during one weekend each month. Sac State faculty members, including Watters, will host the events and offer science insights.
“Two Small Pieces of Glass” focuses on two students who meet an astronomer at a star party. The students learn the history of the telescope, from Galileo’s modifications of a child’s spyglass to the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope and the history of astronomy.
The lineup is still be determined, but future shows might include:
- “IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System,” which follows creation of NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer. Audiences will learn about how the IBEX spacecraft is collecting high-speed atoms to create a map of our solar system’s boundary.
- “Ice Worlds,” a tour of the icy landscapes of our solar system. Viewers will explore the critical relationship between ice and life that has developed over millions of years.
- “Flight Adventures,” which introduces children and families to the science, technology and history of flight. The show features NASA’s research and the advancements that have made space travel possible.
- “Wonders of the Universe,” an excursion deep into space through the eyes of the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Viewers travel back in time to witness the birth of the universe, and take a spectacular tour through the solar system.
- “The Mystery of the Christmas Star,” which takes viewers more than 2,000 years into the past to Bethlehem, on a quest to discover a scientific explanation for the star the biblical wise men are said to have followed to find the baby Jesus.
Sac State, in an effort to raise $20 million for the Science Complex, is offering naming opportunities for laboratories, teaching spaces and even the planetarium itself, which will require a $5 million gift. Donors who make a $1,000 gift to the University’s “Seat Under the Stars” campaign will have their names permanently affixed to the back of planetarium seats.