JJC planetarium boasts new digital projector
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org April 21, 2014 4:52PM
Art Maurer, director of the Trackman Planetarium, said the new digital projector is easier to use and provides and enhanced viewing experience. | Donna Vickroy~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 23, 2014 6:03AM
Over the past decade, Art Maurer has told thousands of people, “I’ve got the world’s greatest job.”
And it just got better.
Maurer is director of the Herbert F. Trackman Planetarium at Joliet Junior College. Earlier this month, the facility debuted a new $186,000 Omnistar digital planetarium projector, which has the power to draw from satellites and provide a more interactive experience for viewers.
The projector, paid for with a grant from the JJC Foundation, was installed in January.
At the debut celebration, which drew stargazers from Joliet, Lockport, Robbins and Shorewood, Maurer said, “It’s much easier to use. And I get to play with the most fascinating tools and toys.”
The projector can show views of the stars from Earth, as well as from other vantage points in space.
Controlled by two high-power computers, the projector also can display historic satellite data, showing what Earth looked like from space years ago. It also has the ability to connect with other college planetariums around the world.
In addition to evening shows that are open to the public, the planetarium features five basic astronomy shows and welcomes more than 9,000 schoolchildren each year, Maurer said.
The average third- or fourth-grader knows a lot about astronomy, Maurer said.
“They come here wanting to know even more,” he said.
He said he hopes the shows inspire kids to stay interested in science.
“I think astronomy is getting a little more popular mostly because telescopes are getting easier to use,” he said.
The old Spitz 512 planetarium projector, which had been used since the facility opened in 1973, will be put on display at the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
The foundation gift is the biggest donation the planetarium has received since 1988, when 1931 JJC graduate Herbert Trackman donated $85,000, which enabled the facility then to upgrade its computers and add video and multiple crossfading slide projectors.
The Trackman Planetarium offers free public shows on select Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year. It closes during the summer.
For more information about the planetarium, visit www.jjc.edu/about/community-interests/planetarium. To book a field trip at the planetarium, contact Tammy Barnes at (815) 280-2917 or email email@example.com.