When Parkland College’s planetarium premiered its first show in fall 1987, the Hubble Telescope, International Space Station and Global Positioning System III were still plans on paper.
Now, 25 years and several astronomical discoveries later, the William M. Staerkel Planetarium brings a digitally remastered “Odyssey” program back to its dome to fascinate a new generation of sky watchers.
“Odyssey” will re-premiere in the planetarium on Friday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. For the month of October, tickets are $2.50 for adults and $2 for students, seniors, and children, all sold at the door. “Friends of the Staerkel Planetarium” will be admitted free of charge. The show is part of the 25th anniversary of Parkland College’s “Cultural Center,” which includes the planetarium and performance theatre.
“We know a little bit more about our universe since the planetarium opened in 1987,” Waylena McCully, Staerkel production designer, said. McCully remastered the show for the planetarium’s new fulldome digital projection system. “Think of the things we did not know about in 1987, like planets orbiting other stars and the existence of the Kuiper Belt in our solar system. Pluto was still a planet!”
“Odyssey” involves a journey through space and time that takes travelers back to man’s first observations of the universe. On the way, viewers explore our solar system, the Milky Way Galaxy, and the universe as a whole. The original show, written by the planetarium’s first director, James Manning, appeared on the dome for public audiences on Oct. 22, three weeks after the dedication of the planetarium, in 1987. The dedication had been attended by Mr. Staerkel, Parkland College’s first president, and his wife Mary Lou.
McCully had to adjust both the show’s original script and imagery to account for several discoveries. “The 1987 show was entirely 35mm slide-based; digital versions do not exist of those images,” McCully said. She worked with the planetarium’s artist/photographer, Pamela Friese, to recreate the images from scratch. Even the show’s soundtrack is entirely new.
“Odyssey” will show on Friday and Saturday nights through Nov. 17. As part of the anniversary celebration, all patrons can attend regular planetarium shows for half-price during the month of October (science lecture and special events excluded). For show times and special anniversary events, visit www.parkland.edu/planetarium or call the show hotline at 217/351-2446.