State-of-the-art updates could be on the way for the Fleischmann Planetarium

Planetarium event lighting
Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 4:13 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -Kids of all ages have gathered over the years at the Fleischmann Planetarium. With the help of a laser projector, they can stare at the ceiling and walls and experience the world around us.

Back in 1963, a film projector placed those images on the walls and ceiling of the dome.

It was considered state-of-the-art at the time.

“When this place opened in 1963, it was the first atmospherium,” says Paul McFarlane with the Fleischmann Planetarium. “It transformed science visualization and storytelling with this immersive 360-degree dome projection.”

The opening of the planetarium made it to the cover of “Sky and Telescope” magazine.

As time has gone on, the experience is still special. But McFarlane says technology could make the presentations more of an encounter.

With a $36 million donation from the Gillemot Foundation earlier this month, McFarlane says that immersive experience is on its way.

“When you come, let’s say a couple of years from now, you are going to be immersed in the most impressive visualization system that exists at any planetarium or university in the world,” says McFarlane. “We are going to have this technology. It’s like a virtual reality system for an entire audience.”

The donation needs to be approved by the Board of Regents, and there’s no word yet on how much money the planetarium will receive. But McFarlane says the facility ties in well with a proposed aerospace engineering department at UNR.

He says nothing will be done to the outside of the building, just the dome inside will be impacted and consequently closed for a time while it’s under construction and LED screens are installed. The rest of the facility will be open, including the exhibit hall which currently displays all the earth-shattering events of 1963, including the opening of the Fleischmann Planetarium.

Before any major renovations begin at the planetarium, McFarlane says they’ll be going back in time with laser shows. Featuring Pink Floyd, Taylor Swift, and the Beatles, to name a few.

Those shows will continue to the end of the year.

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