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Morehead planetarium shows have gone world class

Below and at the top of this page are images from the colorful fulldome video that was shown during the Jan. 26 ceremony. The new technology expands Morehead’s ability to feature all the sciences, not strictly astronomy.

Last week, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s historic Star Theater completed its makeover from analog to fulldome digital video technology. The state-of-the-art change was made possible by a $1.5 million gift from GlaxoSmithKline, and the theater has been renamed the GlaxoSmithKline Fulldome Theater.

“We are pleased to award this gift in support of Morehead’s efforts to transform the Star Theater,” said Janice Whitaker, GSK senior vice president for quality, global manufacturing and supply. “We hope it will help a historic science resource continue to develop and fuel a love of science and the stars in millions more visitors.”

The new fulldome digital video technology is a world-class projection system that puts Morehead in the same class as the National Museum of Air and Space, the American Museum of Natural History and the Griffith Observatory. Morehead’s theater is the largest fulldome installation in the Southeast.

“For Morehead, this is truly our next giant leap,” said Todd Boyette, Morehead director. 

Fulldome digital video creates an immersive environment in which each visitor is surrounded by the sights and sounds of the planetarium show. Morehead visitors can experience the new technology through super-high-definition 4000-by-4000 pixel resolution, a 5.1 channel digital surround-sound system and reconfigured seating for better sight lines. 

Because fulldome digital video technology is a standard format that many planetariums share, Morehead can expand its offerings by leasing shows from other planetariums as well as enhance its revenue by leasing its shows to other planetariums. As a result, Morehead can offer programs that serve as a gateway to all the sciences, not just astronomy.

A new version of Morehead’s popular “Earth, Moon and Sun” planetarium show, recreated for fulldome digital video, has already been leased to four other planetariums in the United States and is under consideration for lease by planetariums in Brazil and Hong Kong.

The 40-year-old Zeiss Model VI analog projector still will be used for shows geared for school field trips into the next school year. Plans have not yet been finalized for the two-ton projector once it is no longer in use.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center was founded in 1949 by John Motley Morehead III. It has hosted planetarium shows for more than 7 million visitors and helped train astronauts in celestial navigation in the 1960s and 1970s. Morehead expects more than 160,000 visitors, including nearly 85,000 schoolchildren, during the next year.

A $1.5 MILLION GIFT FROM GLAXOSMITHKLINE supports the conversion of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s historic Star Theater from analog to fulldome digital video technology. In recognition of the gift, the theater has been renamed the GlaxoSmithKline Fulldome Theater.

Above, officials on hand for the Jan. 26 renaming ceremony are, from left, N.C. Speaker of the House Joe Hackney; Chancellor Holden Thorp; Janice Whitaker from GlaxoSmithKline; Gerald Rudisill Jr., deputy chief secretary of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety; and Todd Boyette, director of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. They are posing with third-grade students from McDougle Elementary School in Carrboro and Charles E. Perry Elementary School in Roseboro, the first schoolchildren in North Carolina to watch a fulldome digital video planetarium show at Morehead.

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INSIDE THE PRINT EDITION: February 10, 2010

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* *Carolina Counts Web site goes live

* *Faculty and staff survey will help assess workplace

* *University marks successful completion of a decade of bond projects

* *Morehead planetarium shows have gone world class

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