Q: What is a Planetarium and how does it work? (Hardware, Software, etc.)
A: “The Venus GOTO Planetarium Star projector displays tiny dots of light all over the dome ceiling, in the same pattern as the stars in the night sky. It can be set for any location on Earth, and any time of the year. There are metal plates inside the round openings of the projector that have tiny holes drilled on them to allow the light from inside the projector to pass through, creating the patterns of the stars. There are only about 4 total light bulbs that produce the thousands of stars it displays. This is the original projector that was installed in 1965.”
Venus GOTO Star Projector
“The dome video projector operates off of a MAC computer and Canon projector along with a software system called “Warped Media.” The videos are created by various production companies in a “fisheye” format. The warped media software on the MAC created a geometric file (a mesh-map) which originally mapped the entire dome ceiling of our Planetarium. The warped media player exports the fisheye video to the mesh-map in order to display the video on the entire dome ceiling of the Planetarium.”
Q: What inspired you to become the Planetarium Director?
A: “My first teaching assignment was 8th grade (Earth) science, and I believe that is when I originally became fascinated with outer space. A few years after moving over to King High School, I began working with a program through UT Austin called the TXESS Revolution, and I helped to develop teacher resources for the newly created high school course Earth and Space Science. It was through teaching this course at King High School that I got to know Mr. Robert Wollman. When my classes would visit the King Planetarium, I was able to learn about the history of the Planetarium and the wonderful learning opportunities the Planetarium has to offer both the students and general public of South Texas. I think my interest in outer space, along with getting to know Mr. Robert Wollman probably inspired me the most.”
Q: What is the one thing you wish people knew about Planetarium?
A: “Probably that we do have this wonderful educational facility, which is a product of the Space Race, is the only one in this part of South Texas, and has been operating for over 50 years to inspire visitors about outer space.”
Q: How does the Planetarium connect to courses offered at King HS?
A: “The Planetarium offers a wide variety of programs that relate the study of astronomy to a wide range of courses at King HS.
Here are a few examples:
Spanish classes have viewed the program “Tales of the Maya Skies” when they were studying cultures.
Biology classes have previously come for their units on the environment and evolution and used the planetarium programs “Solar System Odyssey” which discusses natural resources and the environmental conditions on several planets, and “Origins of Life” which discusses cellular evolution and some of the mass extinctions in Earth’s history.
One of our English teachers also brings her classes to view “Origins of Life” when they are studying myths and legends on Origins. The classes also return later in the school year to view the night sky with the GOTO star projector when they are studying about transcendentalism.