Abrams Planetarium to receive birthday upgrades


As a result of its 50th birthday celebration in February, the Abrams Planetarium will be receiving an upgrade. Its 20-year-old DigiStar 2 projection system will be replaced by a DigiStar 5, a two-projector system with clearer images creating a more accurate representation of the night sky.

“This weekend is the last chance to see these classic planetarium shows,” Abrams Planetarium program director John French said. “Things will be going away and are going to be displayed differently — it’s their last chance to see it like this for forever.”

To prepare for construction, Abrams Planetarium will finish off its summer shows on July 20, which is when it usually closes until the next school year. About two weeks will be spent removing the current technology before construction and the installation of the new projectors begins in August.

Abrams Planetarium will resume its shows around the middle of September.

Planetarium director Shannon Schmoll, the newest addition to the planetarium’s staff, said the upgrade has been a long time coming, adding that it’s harder to come by the technology to repair the current system.

The new system will produce crisper, clearer images, and by using current data will be able to accurately present the surface of Mars and the color of the stars.

“(The DigiStar 5) has been in the works since before I was brought in,” Schmoll said. “We like to expand on the types of programming we offer and ... to offer different types of programming and more exhibits. ... We’re hoping to expand our collaboration across campus.”

Schmoll began working as the Abrams Planetarium director about seven weeks ago in June and previously received her degree from the University of Michigan. She said her first goals are setting the vision for the planetarium’s mission and meeting the needs of their various audiences, from East Lansing residents to school field trips.

Shane Horvatin, a staff member at the planetarium, said they are hoping to incorporate other university departments into the planetarium’s programs. The new system will make it easier to teach astronomy and new shows are already in the works for the fall debut.

“When we open up next, we’re going to have all-new projectors to show off,” French said. “This is only the second time our star projector has been updated. ... We had the DigiStar 2 for 20 years, now we’ll use DigiStar 5. It just seemed like the right time.”

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