Youngstown State University’s Ward Beecher Planetarium is partnering with CosmoQuest to make available spectacular full-dome images that can be used for free by planetariums across the world.
“While there is now a large number of truly breathtaking full-dome planetarium shows available, there is clearly a need for low-cost, or even free, full-dome content to allow planetariums to stretch their programming capabilities,” said Pat Durrell, YSU professor of Astronomy and director of the Ward Beecher Planetarium. “That’s what this project does.”
The project is called Science on the Half Sphere and is a collaboration between Ward Beecher Planetarium and CosmoQuest, a virtual research facility that provides the public with many of the opportunities professional researchers enjoy in their universities.
The first product of the collaboration was a new full-dome planetarium show called Cosmic Castaways, which made its debut last fall at YSU’s Ward Beecher Planetarium. And, just this week, the project is announcing that a collection of nearly 60 full-dome, fisheye-lens images of the Mauna Kea Observatories on the island of Hawaii are available for downloading for free. Also available are nine short time-lapse, full-dome videos.
Mauna Kea, standing nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, is one of the best sites in the world for astronomical observation and today includes more than a dozen large telescopes, Durrell said. Durrell took still images and time-lapse sequences of the summit, the telescopes and the night sky in May 2012. Included are images from inside some of the largest telescopes in the world, such as the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, the Gemini North Telescope, the James-Clark Maxwell Telescope and the Harvard-CfA Submillimeter Array. The images were taken as part of a National Science Foundation research grant awarded to Durrell in 2009.
“The images are freely available to anyone who would like them to use in their planetarium shows or related projects,” he said.
As a result of the project, the Ward Beecher Planetarium now has a camera to use to take full-dome images to include in future shows, he added.
The images are available on the CosmoQuest website at
http://cosmoquest.org/blog/scienceonthehalfsphere/mauna-kea-images/ and http://cosmoquest.org/blog/scienceonthehalfsphere/mauna-kea-timelapses/.
The images were taken with a Canon 7D camera with a 5.6mm fisheye lens. Chicago-based Dome3D custom built the camera system for YSU and provided training. Images are provided as PNG images in three different resolutions: 1024×1024 pixels, 2048×2048 pixels, and 4096×4096 pixels. The vast majority of the images were HDR (High Dynamic Range) processed, from a combination of three bracketed exposures taken at different apertures.