MHCC to Introduce New Star Projection System in December

Pat Hanrahan, Planetarium director, in front of a display of the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus:  The new system allows us to zoom in on parts of the sky with amazing detail provided by telescope images.
Pat Hanrahan, Planetarium director, in front of a display of the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus: The new system allows us to zoom in on parts of the sky with amazing detail provided by telescope images.

Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) will dedicate its monthly planetarium shows Dec. 3 to “Introducing the Sky with Our New Star Projection System.” At 10 million pixels, this upgrade makes MHCC’s Sky Theatre one of highest resolution digital planetariums in the country.

Pat Hanrahan, Planetarium director, coordinated with the University of Washington and Microsoft’s Research Division to adapt a new digital projection system to MHCC’s planetarium. The new system is based on Microsoft’s free software called Worldwide Telescope and off-the-shelf projectors and allows MHCC to continue to use its existing Spitz star projection system. This new system is similar to that used at the University of Washington.

A view of the heart of the Milky Way in hydrogen-alpha light:  The new projection system is not limited to showing the sky with visible or unfiltered light. Here is an example of how the area around Sagittarius appears from sky surveys based on filtered light (hydrogen alpha).
A view of the heart of the Milky Way in hydrogen-alpha light: The new projection system is not limited to showing the sky with visible or unfiltered light. Here is an example of how the area around Sagittarius appears from sky surveys based on filtered light (hydrogen alpha).

People who have experienced digital planetarium shows typically describe it as flying through space at warp speed, zooming past planets and seeing the far reaches of the galaxies. Hanrahan says the system “provides an exhilarating experience and is a powerful educational tool. It greatly expands our capabilities to show the night sky and allows close examination of the planets (including Earth) and the major moons of the solar system, and much more”

He adds, “The imagery capabilities of the new system are amazing. For displaying the night sky, we can use actual images from the National Geographic Palomar Observatory in California and images of the southern sky taken by the UK Schmidt telescope in Australia. We can also display images from other telescope surveys including those from space satellites.”

Monthly Shows

A dome display of the constellations around Cygnus the Swan:  While we can still display the stars without graphics, the patterns can become far easier to see when constellation lines, boundaries and names are added.
A dome display of the constellations around Cygnus the Swan: While we can still display the stars without graphics, the patterns can become far easier to see when constellation lines, boundaries and names are added.

Live shows are presented the first Tuesday of each month at 6, 7:15 and 8:30 p.m. For a complete schedule of Planetarium shows, please visit www.mhcc.edu/planetarium. Visitors are encouraged to ask questions during each 45-minute program. Children are welcome to attend. The Planetarium is wheelchair accessible. Admission for the general public is $2 and free for MHCC students and employees (identification required). Seating is limited and on a first come, first served basis. Early arrival is suggested.

The Planetarium is located on the Gresham Campus beneath the library at 26000 S.E. Stark St. Campus parking is free.

Besides displaying the night sky, we can also display close-ups of individual planets and moons. Gale Crater is the landing site of the Curiosity Mars Rover.  NASA has not provided this type of wide field image where you can see obvious hints of water activity nearby.
Besides displaying the night sky, we can also display close-ups of individual planets and moons. Gale Crater is the landing site of the Curiosity Mars Rover. NASA has not provided this type of wide field image where you can see obvious hints of water activity nearby.

Individuals requiring accommodations due to a disability may contact the MHCC Disability Services Office at 503-491-6923 or 503-491-7670 (TDD). Please call at least two weeks prior to the event.

Private daytime shows are available Fridays for schools, senior centers and other groups. See www.mhcc.edu/planetarium for more information.

A view of Pat Hanrahan, Planetarium director, in front of a dome display of Saturn:  In solar system mode we can view different perspectives of the planets and their orbits around the sun. This mode can also give us interesting perspectives of the asteroid belt as they circle the sun.
A view of Pat Hanrahan, Planetarium director, in front of a dome display of Saturn: In solar system mode we can view different perspectives of the planets and their orbits around the sun. This mode can also give us interesting perspectives of the asteroid belt as they circle the sun.

For more information, media professionals may contact the Office of College Advancement at 503-491-7204 or news@mhcc.edu.

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 Last Modified: 10/7/2014 09:42:29 AM