Slide for Monday Laser Shows
Monday Planetarium Schedule
James R. Garvey, Emporia State University
Mark and Eric October upgrade planetarium
James R. Garvey, Emporia State University
Incandescent cove lighting out
James R. Garvey, Emporia State University
John Hare installs LED cove lighting
James R. Garvey, Emporia State University
Spitz 512 Star projector gets a lift!
James R. Garvey, Emporia State University
Outside looking in... dome is cleaned and painted!

Science and Math Education Center and Peterson Planetarium
2014 Events

October 9-20, 2014 Planetarium Equipment Upgrade 
June 24,2014 Planetarium Re-Discovered

May 18 & 26 Vertebrate Fossil Dig
March 4, 2014 Educational Outreach & Spring Birthday Celebrations

January 25, 2014 Portable Planetarium Certification


Fall 2014 - Peterson Planetarium Equipment Upgrade

As some were busy enjoying the second Lunar eclipse in October of 2014, our Peterson Planetarium was about to start a long overdue update.  Emporia State University President Shonrock and Provost Cordle approved funding to make it happen!  After much research, we decided on Ash Enterprise’s innovative and relatively inexpensive video projection using a hemispherical mirror system (
We replaced cove lighting with LED and replaced the console and computer with East Coast Console System and I-MAC.  While the upgrade involved removing our unreliable and failing analog video equipment, we kept and repaired the Spitz 512 Star Projector to continue Night Skies over Emporia live shows.  We added a lift to lower the starball projector so it would not shadow the dome during video shows.  Our new digital video equipment will present all new video shows, and presenters can accompany the show with lecture using a variety of aids including power point, DVD, and internet projections.
Workers were here October 9-20th to do the job, and it is nearly finished.  Within the next four weeks we have been promised some new transformers, electronic console components, and video shows from Ash.  Our own University Facilities, Physical Plant, Mail Center, Information Technology support, Administrative Specialist, and Physical-Biological Science technician workers have been and continue to be extremely valuable in this update process.
Mini-previews of and training on the system are ongoing, but a projected time frame for a grand opening will be at the start of the Spring Semester 2015!!  Stay tuned for more... and read on, for our planetarium story with some before and after images.

** Special Request> We are looking for some pictures or slides of Peterson Planetarium from 1959-1994. If you can help us, please email Dr. Aber, - thanks so much! **

Planetarium Background -The Way it Was...
The ESU planetarium opened in 1959, one year after the Science Hall was completed. It was the second planetarium in the state of Kansas and today, there are 15 fixed and 1 portable. 

Kansas Planetariums and Observatories Map

Map shown above is by Christian Lollar

Since 1959, we have had over 100,000 visits to the planetarium with an average of 1,750 visitors each year, 79% school groups from K-16 and 21% from the greater community.  Peterson Planetarium was named after Oscar Peterson, who was the head of the mathematics department and the one who was tasked with the planetarium operation.  George Downing was the first faculty member asked to direct the planetarium, and he was instrumental in getting the planetarium named in honor of Dr. Peterson's honor.
Peterson Planetarium Open House

                                                         Photo by K. Simmons, 6/2014

Science Hall then...                                                  Science Hall now...             Science Hall

            Image taken from Travel Kansas, Johnston                          Photo by Bryan Longwell; 2013.
            Geology Museum,

While the planetarium concept has beginnings in Europe & Asia over 3000 years ago, most of us today have a post-World War II perspective (Novaković, 2008; International Dunhuang Project, 2014 ).  In the 1940s, Professor Armand N. Spitz manufactured Junior Planetariums and larger, affordable planetarium projectors perfect for schools and museums.  Hence, he has been referred to as the Henry Ford for planetariums.

Our planetarium was placed in the sub-basement. This original Spitz A-2 Starball was a state-of-the-art, two-axis star projector, a model introduced in 1958 (National Museum of American History, 2001).  Only 100 units were made and the cost was $500.00 per unit (Pielock, n.d.; Armand Spitz, 2013).  Peterson Planetarium opened in 1959 with a twenty-four foot fiberglass dome and a star ball projector positioned in the center of the room with three rows of circular seating for 72 people.

The first Spitz A-2 Starball projector was not a ball but rather a pentagonal dodecahedron with perforated metal faces and a lens in each pinpoint hole; when the light bulb in the center was illuminated, the stars were projected onto the dome ceiling. The operator manually moved the star field in the night sky with a large crank!  This great set-up gave us an Earth-bound perspective, which served the university and community for 35 years.             


Junior astronomers- Image left is from Armand Spitz Seller of Stars,  
Spitz A-2 - Kalamazoo with orrery- Image center is from Kaalamazoo Astronomical Society,
Spitz A-2- Michael Umbricht- Image right is from 
Hardin Planetarium, Western Kentucky Unviersity- Image below is from

The planetarium was functioning well until a water line broke and flooded our facility in 1994.  All furnishings and the A-2 star projector were ruined.  The Spitz A-2 now resides in the museum, Cosmosphere, Hutchinson, Kansas.

After much planning, funds were acquired and the planetarium had its first major renovation.  The open house was celebrated in 1997.  The new Spitz 512 Starball projector was the center piece and remains our star projector even after the latest upgrade!     1990s star ball

                                                      Photo by Kim Simmons; 6-2014

When Peterson Planetarium reopened, it had a new aluminum dome, front-facing seating, carpet, and console.

 perforated aluminum dome  One of many supports for aluminum dome  Console from 1996

                                         Photos by S. Aber; 11-2014 and 8-2014

A lift was installed for anyone that has difficulty using stairs.  The lift moves automatically, but can be operated manually of the electricity goes off!

                                           Automated but manual operation of lift     Manual operation of lift     

                                               Manual operation of lift      Manual operation of lift Photos by S. Aber; 11-2014

Also, video show equipment was added.  The star projector was controlled by computer software and console, which also synchronized the analog equipment for video showing. 

      film slide projectorConsole from 1996    cassette 

   Photos by S. Aber, 10/2014

For one show to play, the equipment needed was: a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) projector (image, lower right- front was removed for repairs); four film slide projectors for single, still pictures to supplement video (one shown above, left); one Laserdisc (LD) player for video (image below, left); a cassette tape player for audio (image above, right). The film slides arrived in a roll and needed to be cut and mounted in cardboard or plastic frames.

  LD projector  LD projector         RGB CRT propector
                                                                                            Photo taken by S. Aber, 10/2014
Image, above left, was taken from and  
The above, centered image is from Bayview Electronics, who serviced LD players since 1979 (
Image, above right, is the Cathode Ray Tube projector with an open panel exposing the circuit board (Image below, left) ( The cabinet or rack (images below, center and left) housed a small monitor as well as a VHS, DVD, and LD players.

For a bit of trivia...
According to LaserDisc Planet, the videodisc was invented in 1958 (  The first LD demonstration was 1972 and the last laser disc was released in 2001; the last manufacturing company to make LD players was in Japan, stopping production in March 2002 (

While cathode ray tube technology has existed since the late 19th century, but manufacturing companies phased the CRT out in 2006-2007.  These devices are only of value to collectors today (  For more visite the following:

                          crt projector      B4rack      rack back

                                                         Photos taken by S. Aber, 10/2014

In 1997, Peterson Planetarium re-opened with a new star projector and video show capability turning it into more of a science education theater with a space-based perspective.  More Than Meets the Eye and Through the Eyes of Hubble were the two most popular shows we used for 17 years!  These video shows utilized all analog equipment that eventually was no longer manufactured.  When the equipment was obsolete, no new shows for this medium were forthcoming. 

   More than Meets the Eye  Thru Eye Hubble  OPIS  Hubble Vision 2

More than Meets the Eye (1987), Through the Eyes of Hubble (1990), Our Place in Space (1993), and Hubble Vision 2 (2004).  [The image for Through the Eyes of Hubble was created using a 2002 image of Hubble above Earth taken from]


Peterson Planetarium Upgrade -The way it is!!
This is now - the great news is ESU has found the funds to support the equipment and video show upgrade!!  We have a hybrid system where we expand our programming  to include digital by adding a Spherical Mirror Projection System, while retaining the Spitz 512 Starball.  Work is nearly finished and we will have an open house January, at the start of the spring 2015 session.

                                                 So what exactly have we done...

    old cove lights in the hallway outside planetarium       cove lights        Sarah Noller

                                        Photos taken by C. Hayen and S. Aber, 10/2014

Carnival cove lights are out, in order to make room for the RGB LED ChromaCove lighting. The yellow and blue incandescent bulbs are being re-used in biology to warm captive animal habitats; Sarah and other SMEC workers removed lighting, and the aluminum rail was recycled. 

                         mirrorhemispherical mirror Markthe mirror

                                                         Photos taken by S. Aber, 10/2014

The main componet of the video upgraded is a hemispherical mirror system and here is what it look like out of the box!  After the mirror is inspected and approved, it was mounted just below the spring line or at the bottom of the dome (bottom, left).  The mirror system consists of a Canon LCOS digital projector (below, right) that shines the image onto a flat, bounce mirror (below, center), which hits the hemispherical mirror and is projected onto the dome.  This is the Ash Enterprises Warped Media.

               mirror projection system      bounce mirror    Canon projector

                                                     Photo taken by S. Aber, 10/2014

warped media

                                                           Banner taken from Ash Enterprises,

A lift had to be to installed for the Starball; it will be raised for shows on the live night sky, but lower for video programming so as to not shadow the full dome shows.

  some of the crew     Jim testing lift for star projector    Starball Projector Lift   

The new console, East Coast Console System, was assembled (below left). The console controls the starball projector as well as the digital video projectors, stairway lights, and more!

            eccs  eccs

New transformers were needed for the Star ball projector.

         Jason and new transformers    New transformers for starball  New transformers for starball  New transformers for starball

All of the Warped Media components are in and we are nearly ready to open!  Official opening is at the start of the Spring 2015 Semester, January 2015!

Move on to Peterson Planetarium,
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January 25, 2014 Portable Planetarium Certification
Since the planetarium is now under the Science & Math Education Center, the director takes every opportunity presented to learn more about these educational and entertainment theaters.  There are 16 planetariums in the state of Kansas.  Peterson Planetarium is the second oldest, and Fort Hays State University has the newest - a portable planetarium!  FHSU has a Science and Mathematics Educational Institute, which purchased a portable Digital Planetarium and checks it out for classroom and public science education in Kansas... as long as the person has gone through the training session for certification. 

Dr. Paul Adams and his daughter and FHSU student, Megan Adams, were in charge, and I attended the late January session; more sessions are offered throughout the year (  The pictures below illustrate this 2 year old planetarium that has been enjoyed by 3000 people across the state. We now have an updated planetarium and would suggest you come to see us in Emporia!  However, if this is not possible you can contact Fort Hays State University, Science & Math Institute (SMEI),
     Training was held at the Sternberg Museum as a tall ceiling is a must!Photo by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.

    Planetarium in a bag?!   It looks suspiciously like a big tent!   Pulling the planetarium from a box!   
Photos by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.

     Inflation is merely with a fan!    The fan inflates the portable tent-like structure through the tunnel.
Photos by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.  

...and in a matter of minutes - a resurrected planetarium!Photo by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.

    The digital projector and computer for video shows.Photo by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.

So there you have it!  A zipper is opened to gain entrance, and visitors remove shoes before entering. We sat on the floor and the projector is placed in the center of the dome. It is a wonderful service provided by a university in the part of Kansas that would rather take the planetarium to the people than expect the people to drive hundreds of miles to them!   Read more about Digital Planetariaum Brings the Stars to YOU!

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Educational Outreach & Spring Birthdays

Bryan Longwell and Earth Science Club members went to Sacred Heart Elementary for Science Night, March 4, 2014. This educational outreach was about weather and the desktop tornado machine was demonstrated! 

                                Dry ice for tornado and cloud formation demonstration.      Cloud in a bottle!
Photos by D. Marie Barlow; 4 March 2014.

            Dr. Simons does chemistry!      Kids...look alive!  
Photos by D. Marie Barlow; 4 March 2014.                 

                  Tornadoes we can control...   Organs and questions...
Photos by D. Marie Barlow; 4 March 2014.


Spring birthdays and other reasons for celebration! 

Birthdays are a time to celebrate!  Birthday and unbirthday gifts! 
Photos by S. W. Aber; February 2014.

Also shown below are a few resources from our collection development efforts. 
Namely kenetic sand, a desktop skeleton, and solar powered constellation ball! 

Sand with an attitude!   They hit it off from the beginning... did I ever tell you about my wife?  Capt Morgan standing in the heavens!
Photos by S. W. Aber; May 2014.

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May 18 and 26, 2014 Vertebrate Fossil Dig!

Upper Pennsylvanian Vertebrate Fossil Display from the Synderville Shale, Greenwood County, Kansas was the title of a poster presentation & display given at the Kansas Academy of Science Annual Meeting in April 5, 2014.  It was a preliminary report on a significant vertebrate fossil find by Naomi Peterson that includes, early amphibians, reptiles, freshwater sharks, and lungfish.  We organized a KAP and digging trip in May and now, one of our graduate students has taken on the site for his master's research.  A few pictures follow that are self-explanitory...

Gayla, Alek, and Bill - enjoying a morning of digging!   Gayla, happiest when getting dirty, looking for fossils, rocks, & minerals. 
Photos by S. W. Aber; 26 May 2014.

Tom & Mike...digging for fossils or cleaning a shoe?  Naomi, the keen eye and vertebrate fossil find started with her! 
Photos by S. W. Aber; 26 May 2014.

Rib bone...  Working and waving...
Photos by S. W. Aber; 26 May 2014.

Shared the outcrop, but uninterested crew in the dig...Photos by S. W. Aber; 26 May 2014.

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June 24, 2014 Planetarium Re-Discovered
Leadership Emporia Alumni and Emporia Chamber and Visitors Bureau partnered with the Science and Math Education Center to sponsor an Open House - Planetarium Re-Discovered!  This event was a family friendly evening of information, science education, and fun in Science Hall. 

The greatest information was the announcement of funding for a major upgrade in Peterson Planetarium video equipment and programming!  The Warped Media system will be installed this fall by Ash Enterprises International.  Our analog equipment will be retired and replaced with a digital hemispherical mirror projection system. The Spitz 512 Starball projector will be renovated along with enhancements to the dome, cove lighting, console, and programming. Watch for more information when our timeline is known.

The evening science education came in the form of continuous tours for the Johnston Geology Museum and Schmidt Natural History Museum.  Also, there were students and faculty from Physical and Biological Sciences as well as The Teachers College in the hallways with demonstrations, activities, gifts, and live animal specimens.

The fun kept up from 5:30-7:30 pm as we ate cookies and drank punch... and drum roll... hosted the main event - Planetarium Re-Discovered!  In fact, it was for many re-discovering the Night Sky over Emporia with no worries of stormy weather, light pollution, and biting insects - all happening before the sunset!  Peterson Planetarium was opened for tours and our talented student operators, Alyssa Floro and Chris Hayen, presented six consecutive shows.  People filed down the stairs or rode on the lift... found a comfortable chair and used their imaginations to see the warm colors of the sunset and feel the cooler air as the sun dropped beneath the horizon.  However, as the planetarians explained, the Sun does not really go down... but rather Earth turns away from our star, the Sun.  As Earth keeps turning, we see less sunlight and the darkness of space is total... while the stars and planets seem to shine brightly in the recreated Kansas night sky.

A special thanks to ESU students, faculty, and administration as well as our community sponsors who made this evening open house a success - we could not have done it without YOU!!  Another special thanks our audience of over 250 friends and family... those who came and participated making this an enjoyable, inspiring, and entertaining evening for us - we could not have done it without YOU!!!  Before our event, we were on KVOE - where you can see the Peterson Planetarium Re-Discovered flyer.  After our event, pictures arrived from Drs. James Aber, Marcia Schulmeister, and Kim Simons - thanks so much!

We are showing off science tonight!!

President Shonrock and SMEC Director, Dr. Susie Aber   
Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Welcome to ESU and Science Hall!
Greetings from President Shonrock and Dr. Susie Aber!

Debbie Ash, President of Emporia Leadership Alumni
Photo by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.  

      Above Left... Thanks to Debbie Ash, current Leadership Emporia Alumni President,
for donating refreshments and helping to handle the publicity

Susie Aber, Kim Simons, President Shonrock   People arriving for the open house! 
Photos by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.

Above Left... Susie Aber, Drs. Simons (chemisty) and Shonrock (ESU's President).

Above Right... Kelly Wade, event organizer, and Jeanine McKenna, Chamber President,
welcome visitors!  (They are pictured above and below in the background.)

Above and Below right... The chemists take center stage and will actually end
the evening with a bang... a rather big bang!!

Dr. Andrew Miller gives chemistry demonstration!
Photo by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

                Drs. Christine Morales and Andrew Miller represented Chemistry tonight!

It was purple and now its pink?   What -I can make worms, worms, worms?
Photos by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Purple on the top and what will appear below?Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.  Wait... it is green but wasn't it pink last time?Photo by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Ah ha - Planetarium Re-Discovered!

The star of our show, Peterson Planetarium, was opened in 1959 and originally operated
by the Mathematics Department.  Oscar Peterson was the head of math (1928-1963),
Dr. George Downing, a math professor, was the first planetarium director.

Waiting for the next show... Re-discovering Peterson PlanetariumPhoto by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Spitz 512 Starball Projector is the star of the show!Photo by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

After 35 years and a flooding disaster, the planetarium was remodeled and updated.
The optical-
mechanical Spitz A-2 Starball and circular seating was replaced with this
Spitz 512 Starball projector
and front-facing seating... re-opening in 1997.


Schmidt Natural History Museum but wait, there is more in this hallway too!

Students dissect a snake, which died froma car accident.  Just outside the Natural History Museum, are students with the rest of the story!
Photos by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Biology students had live snakes on display and dissected a snake that died from a vehicle accident.
Roger Ferguson, ESU Biology and Physical Sciences Laboratory Educational Technician,

gave tours of the Schmidt Natural History Museum.


Physics toys keep everyone engaged!

Student and faculty play with physics toys...  No it is not magic... just science!
Photo by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Dr. Jorge Ballester and his graduate student had physics toys to play with... I mean to
demonstrate physical science principles!


What about the Johnston Geology Museum?
Hey, Paul Johston is there too!! (, gray, white horizontal striped shirt!)

Dean Weaver speaks with Professor Emeritus Paul Johnston!Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Professor Emeritus, Paul Johnston, was on hand to give the rest of the story talk about
the geology museum he built!  He is pictured above speaking with Dean Weaver of The
Teacher's College.  Dr. Morales, the current Johnston Geology Museum
Director was also present passing out Triceratop's bone fragments.

browsing in the geology museum  Paul in museum
Photo by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.

Professor Emeritus Johnston recounts stories of creating the museum...  Have you seen the fluorescent mineral display yet?
Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Great museum and yes, I am the auctioneer at ESU Glass Blowout.
Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.


Let us revisit the planetarium again...

Meanwhile, back in the basement... the shows go on!  The line never
thinned and our 38 seat planetarium was full for every show. Care for the planetarium
shifted to Physical Sciences in 1972 and the second
and third directors of the planetarium
were DeWayne Backhus (Physical Sciences) and Gerald Witten (Physics-director,
Dr. Ron Keith was the fourth director (1991-2007) and the
1996-7 remodel of the planetarium was initiated during his tenure.

   Meanwhile, back to the planetarium...the line is still forming!       Another sunset...another Night Sky over Emporia show!!
Photo left by J.S. Aber; 24 June 2014.         Photo right by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.


Earth scientists....rock!!

Ah, rumors of a tornado upstairs turned out to be true!  Hum... tornado in a box?!

Yet, another crowd is forming... did someone say tornado?        Dr. Sleezer knows how to turn on and off his tornado... machine.
Photo left by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.        Photo right by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Dr. Sleezer, an ESU alumni and the current head of Physical Sciences, from the Earth
Sciences and he enjoys teaching courses such as Severe and Unusual Weather! 
else would build his own tornado machine?!

                           Wow, how did you do that with dry ice?       Watch again...
Photo left by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.   Photo right by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

      Next to tornadoes, we had triceratop fragments and minerals galore!  If yo hold this up to the light...
Photo left by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.            Photo right by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Dr. Allison, Earth Sciences, was informing visitors on Kansas minerals, fossils, and rocks!

Things we find in Kansas...even a bit of obsidian in the southwest.  Dr. Allison teaches a course on rocks and minerals...
Photos by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

One of our graduate students, Bryan Longwell, talked about geology, but the crowd was back in
the Science Hall lobby watching those chemists again!!

Yes, halite is SALT! ...mined underground in Hutchinson and Lyons, Kansas.  Chemistry just keeps them mesmerized...
Photos by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.


The chemists hard at work!!

Dr. Morales was perfecting her worm creation skills, while Dr. Miller was...

Dr. Morales is still making worms...with a turquoise display in the background!  Put in a pinch of this and cover it with this...  I had no idea worms were transparent and pink!
Photos by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

wondering how his balloon would react to the tiny birthday candle?

What do you think will happen when I hold a candle to a balloon?  Wow, do not try this at home kids!
Photo left by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.        Photo right by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Hum, after the rather spectacular reaction he mentioned it was neither
a mix of oxygen and nitrogen nor helium inside the balloon. 

This will make a noise!
Photo by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.

Oh did I mention my balloon has hydrogen inside?!
Photo by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.

So that is what hydrogen does... and a tad bit of copper for color!!  The evening
went out with a BANG... A BIG BANG!!


Come back and see us!

We had a great time and hope you did as well!  President Shonrock and Dr. Aber
want to extend a welcome to you... to visit Science Hall museums and faculty anytime. 

We had a great about you?Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Watch the news for a second open house in the fall 2014 -
An Updated Peterson Planetarium - Coming Soon!!


Return to homepage, - Latest update 12/11/2014.