Campus Life

New Planetarium Technology Improves Showings

UCA Associate Professor Scott Austin hosted two showings of the full-dome movie “Secret Lives of Stars” Feb. 3 and 4 in the new Dr. Edmond E. Griffin Planetarium.

The show took place in a small full-dome, in which it was projected on the ceiling.

The room seats 93 people and has chairs that have a tilted back allowing viewers to look up at the movie.

Before the show, boxes scrolled by on the ceiling with rules for the room, lists of other showings for the semester, and information on a supporter of the planetarium.

The first part of the event was an instructional look at the stars before watching the movie, where Austin, also the Director of Astronomical Facilities, went into detail about different stars.

Sitting at a computer in the back of the room, Austin projected the sky onto the ceiling, and could control the position of the stars by adjusting the time or zooming through space.

“The old UCA planetarium didn’t have the technology this one does, so it is definitely an improvement,” Austin said.

Austin zoomed in while talking about Jupiter, rushing past stars to get to the planet, then zoomed back out and moved the time forward to around the time of the event.

The program creates a three-dimensional universe on the ceiling, which allows for going through space and gives a sense of depth.

After selecting an area of stars to focus on, Austin started talking about constellations, which were illuminated and connected.

Austin would point out the well-known or main stars in the constellations as he explained the reason for their chosen picture that would appear over the connected stars.

Signs to look for to see different constellations were pointed out, and Austin focused on certain stars as he took the program closer to show star nebulas.

After going through the constellations, Austin settled the program on Chicago and slowly left the Earth, backing into space until the outermost points were reached, then quickly came back to Earth.

Austin then compared the Earth to other parts of the universe, making it smaller as he brought in large bodies like Jupiter and the sun.

The sun was compared to other stars, getting smaller as bigger red and blue stars were brought in, then the movie was started.

The film went into space to show things like stars that circle each other and share energy, and was narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart.

Stewart’s role as “Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation” was referenced as the film progressed, with Stewart saying they would be “trekking” into space, then that they were “boldly going” light years further from Earth.

The film showed stars that orbit each other and share energy, as well as the event of one exploding, which led to explaining what will happen to Earth when the sun becomes a red giant.

One woman told Austin that her kids loved the show, smiling as she and her family left the planetarium.

The planetarium was filled and people had to be turned away the previous Friday, Austin said. It was almost filled the next day.

Former UCA student William Barefoot said he was happy with the event and glad to notice that Patrick Stewart was the narrator.

Barefoot hadn’t been to a planetarium in quite some time, but said he would absolutely come back for another planetarium event.

“Admission is currently free, because the planetarium should have the licenses for the films until October,” Austin said.

According to, the other movies being shown at the planetarium this semester are Two Small Pieces of Glass – The Amazing Telescope, Invaders of Mars narrated by Tom Baker and Stars of the Pharaohs narrated by John Rhys-Davies.

Photo by Paden Moore


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