STEM Pipeline Blog / October 5, 2023
Delta College Planetarium Inspires All Ages!
The Delta College Planetarium is coming up on 27 years as a landmark destination for downtown Bay
City, drawing all types of visitors from across the state. This past year saw its best attendance since its
record-setting opening year. What accounts for such popularity and interest? And more to the point,
what is the planetarium’s purpose in the community?
October 2023 marks the centennial of the first optical mechanical star projector, a device that would eventually create a sensation of “theaters” all across the globe. Over 4200 of these theaters now play to 143 million people on an annual basis. Twenty years ago, planetariums underwent a renaissance. A technological transformation turned them into digital 3-dimensional environments. Combined with the immersive power of the domed screen, they represent a collective virtual reality experience – no headsets or 3D glasses required! This gives the modern planetarium the ability to present any subject in a uniquely experiential way.
Many people remember their first experience in a planetarium as a young student on an educational
field trip. Programs for local and regional schools continue to satisfy state and national science standards. Planetariums are not only experiential hubs for astronomy and space exploration, but many cross disciplines including STEM and STEAM.
Astronomy and space still rank highest as the most fascinating subject by students and the public, making it the perfect gateway science for capturing curiosity and inspired learning for all ages. However, many people, including many adults, come to planetariums for transformative experiences that reshape and expand their sense of the world. From that point of view, the planetarium’s purpose can be as much inspirational as educational. And that’s exactly how we present it. It’s a dream maker, a way to activate curiosity so one might go out and explore more on their own.
The creative programming available at the Delta College Planetarium has expanded in recent years to bring in completely new audiences. Over 40 different recorded “feature” shows rotate in and out of the schedule on a regular basis, with two or three new productions added each year. These modern programs are created with the dome environment in mind, making them more of a “journey” than a “movie”. Show themes range from black holes to the northern lights, cosmic impacts to life in the universe.
Many others delve onto subjects beyond astronomy, including the Great Lakes, aviation, weather, life, archeology, wayfinding, underwater adventures, and more. Lately there has been great success with music and visual art choreography, from recorded compositions by Grammy nominated musician James Hood to live performances by the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra. And don’t forget Pink Floyd!
What distinguishes us from many planetariums is that virtually every public show includes a live follow-up mini presentation that looks at hot topics and current events in the night sky, astronomy and space exploration. From the latest Webb Space Telescope images to the upcoming total solar eclipse, audiences always get to discover something new in the cosmos. That interaction is paramount to the mission of the planetarium – to develop a relationship with the community. It’s a place to explore, ask questions, and to experience our cultural connections with the grandest of all natural resources.
As you can see, the planetarium’s purpose goes far beyond pure education. Yes, it provides programming to over 6,000 school children each year, but it also offers guest speakers on special topics, telescope viewing on its rooftop observation deck, Delta College classes, rentals, workshops, and special events. Even wedding ceremonies have taken place under the dome universe!
To see the latest listings for shows, special events, and educational resources, go to www.delta.edu/planetarium or call 989-667-2260.
You can also follow us on social media at:
Astronomer and Planetarium Manager
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