The planetarium, one of the main features
of Emory’s new Mathematics and Science Center, is a 56-seat classroom
space designed for teaching undergraduate astronomy and hosting events
and seasonal programs that explore and celebrate the cosmos. When the
house lights go down, it’s a place to sit back in comfortable
chairs, relax, gaze up and imagine that the 35-foot domed ceiling above
really is filled with countless stars as it appears to be. In fact,
each one is being projected by a relatively small but hard-working piece
of equipment stationed below.
How does it work?
Dr. Richard Williamon, Planetarium Director
All of the heavenly bodies that seem to glow from outer space are simulated
by the Zeiss Skymaster ZKP3—a German-made star projector. Operated
by a small control panel, a portable PC keyboard and accompanying software,
it incorporates a total of 39 projecting lenses of different sizes. Working
individually or in groups, they beam thousands of light points onto the
planetarium’s curved ceiling screen. A member of the physics department—most
often, planetarium director Dr. Richard
Williamon--orchestrates the display of celestial objects to explain
specific concepts or to develop a broader narrative theme.
What can the Skymaster do?
- The Skymaster ZKP3 shows everything you would see with the naked
eye on a clear night under perfect viewing conditions.
- It projects over 7,000 individual stars in addition to star clusters,
nebulae, galaxies, the Milky Way, constellations, the planets Mercury,
Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and the Earth’s Sun and
- It excels at representing the apparent movement of celestial objects
and can accelerate their motion to help make a point.
- The Skymaster is usually programmed to simulate the sky over Atlanta;
however, it can easily represent the night sky from any place in
the northern or southern hemispheres.
- It can also function as a time machine by recreating the night
sky for any moment in history—past or future.
- And, it can even project line drawings that outline the major
constellations—an especially helpful feature for those of
us with less imagination than the ancient astronomers who named
them thousands of years ago.
Our Planetarium's claim to fame
Place your mouse over the projector and watch it disappear.
There are over 500 Zeiss planetariums world wide. The Emory Skymaster,
installed on July 24, 2002, is the only one built on its own rising
platform; when not in use, it descends below floor level to be hidden
out of sight. Then the planetarium becomes a normal classroom, perfect
for lectures and colloquia.
Also, our planetarium has a direct video feed from the 24-inch telescope
located several stories above in the building's rooftop observatory.
This means that live astronomical events can be projected and viewed
by a large audience in a classroom setting in the planetarium. The image
that the audience sees is exactly the same as the image seen through
the eyepiece of the telescope at exactly the same time.
The Skymaster’s compact size is especially well-suited to university
planetariums; it is the smallest of several types of star projectors
manufactured by the German-based Carl Zeiss Company
producer of optical equipment that has been in business since 1846.
The firm created the world’s first
planetarium in Munich in 1923.
Planetarium resources for Emory University
The planetarium's primary mission is to enhance the teaching of undergraduate
astronomy in the department of physics. It also serves as a resource
for other departments and areas of the University interested in cross-disciplinary
applications. faculty and staff members with ideas for collaborative projects
are invited to contact the planetarium director, Dr. Richard
Williamon or the Chairman of the physics department, Kurt Warncke.
Events and programs for the Emory Community
A number of special
events and seasonal programs are planned throughout the year
for the enjoyment of the Emory community and local groups. Topics are
most often astronomical, but the planetarium’s cozy ambience
and intimate scale make it a setting for live music
and the performing arts on campus whenever possible.