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ISU Planetarium Gets A Makeover

The Illinois State University Planetarium is using its newly remodeled space for more than just outer space.

The dome-shaped planetarium got a major upgrade this summer, with a new layout and seating and expanded video and sound capability. But according to the planetarium’s director, Thomas Willmitch, the venue inside Felmley Hall of Science is used for more than gazing at the stars.

"It's an incredibly versatile space and we want to make full use of it."

“(There are) lots of different things in here,” Willmitch said. “It’s an incredibly versatile space and we want to make full use of it.”

Other than its public stargazing programs, ISU’s planetarium is used by countless groups and shows in need of a venue. Willmitch said that includes gardening clubs, community groups, boy scouts and girl scouts, school groups around the state, musical events, poetry slams, and even improv comedy groups.

Willmitch said the venue was used for some ISU classes like physics and anthropology in the past, but ISU students who take astronomy this coming fall will be in the updated space.

“We can demonstrate the way the sky moves by moving the sky. Not doing it on a blackboard," Willmitch said.

That’s all thanks to the new renovations Willmitch is rolling out over the summer. The planetarium star projector has been completely remodeled and upgraded to a computerized system. This means viewers are able to see the sky and the stars move exactly like they would see at night.

The new renovations also include new directional seating with spaces for disabled visitors, a change from the old “in the round” seating. The venue also got a new surround sound system, acoustic fabric for the walls, and an assisted hearing sound system. Willmitch said all the old wiring from 1964—when the Planetarium opened—will be replaced for the updated systems.

To highlight the updates to the planetarium, the program “Out There - The Quest For Extrasolar Worlds” will play Wednesdays, Friday nights, and Saturdays throughout the summer. The program takes the viewers through space in search of exoplanets and other lifeforms “out there.” Anyone is able to attend the programs at the planetarium. Tickets are available at the gift shop before the show.

The grand opening for the finished planetarium will be in September with a new program called “Seeing” narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. More information on the ISU Planetarium and the programs can be found on its website.

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Maddie is a social media and online writing intern at GLT. She's a student in the School of Communication at Illinois State University.
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