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MSU Abrams Planetarium screens Pink Floyd show, 'The Dark Side of the Moon'

November 11, 2023
Students wait for the show to start at Abrams Planetarium on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. The planetarium screened a show by British psychadelic rock band Pink Floyd, a visualization of their legendary 1973 album "Dark Side of the Moon" in celebration of the albums 50th birthday.
Students wait for the show to start at Abrams Planetarium on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. The planetarium screened a show by British psychadelic rock band Pink Floyd, a visualization of their legendary 1973 album "Dark Side of the Moon" in celebration of the albums 50th birthday.

The Abrams Planetarium sits in the center of Michigan State University’s main campus, often left undiscovered by students.

But one annual tradition always fills the planetarium's seats: a show set to Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon," taking the audience on a musical trip through space and time. 

Planetarium Presenter and astrophysics junior Nayda Anjou said the show’s popularity comes from its "nostalgia factor."

“As long as this album has existed, we have been making planetarium shows for it,” she said. “Also, (it’s a) great album. You can’t really go wrong with it.”

During the premiere, the audience was a mix of students and adults, many of whom were parents. 

“It’s kind of that thing where they saw (the show) when they were a college kid themselves,” she said, “and now they can see it as an adult and bring generations with them.”

As the show started, when planetarium’s Production Coordinator, John French, asked the audience of over 100 who had been inside the planetarium before, about a dozen students raised their hands.

“Looks like a much younger crowd than we’ve had before,” French said.

Attention moved to the massive screen surrounding the theater as celestial scenes melded together seamlessly with the music. Pink Floyd’s song “Breathe” began with a view of Earth from a satellite in orbit, then transitioned to a spinning tunnel of lights and lasers for “On the Run.”

Songs like "Time" and "The Great Gig in the Sky" showcased images of Saturn's rings and different angles of the galaxy. “Money” began with a television screen showing depictions of wealth and poverty before moving viewers through a space shuttle coated in silver, where they could watch how the Apollo 11 mission took astronauts to the moon and back.

“I will probably be coming back because this is really cool,” environmental biology senior Kris Wolford said. “I love it.”

Wolford came to the event in rainbow bellbottoms, rainbow fishnet sleeves, orange sunglasses and a fuzzy rainbow bucket hat. She said she always loves to dress "like this when possible."

Wolford said she believes many audience members probably came to the show under the influence of different substances.

Similarly, French said the show’s connection to drug use dates back to the 1980s, when the novelty of the then-popular, planetarium laser shows began to wear off.

“The people that still kept coming to see the (show) were the stoners and people that were getting high,” French said. “The staff here at the time were on a first-name basis with all the campus police because (they) were coming here all the time.”

He said there was one incident during the Pink Floyd show involving an intoxicated student.

“There was some kid that clearly had drank a bunch before the show,” French said. “While the walk-in music was playing before the show, he just kind of leaned forward and just vomited all over the carpet... We cleaned it up and had to get him out."

French said he hopes students who enjoy the Pink Floyd show return to the planetarium for their other educational events.

“A student will come by before they graduate, obviously giving their parents a tour of campus, and they say, ‘Oh wow, I was never in here,’” he said. “I just hope more people come in and check us out.”

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