Project funding includes assistance from New York State through Assemblyman Joseph Morelle

The Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) announced today that its Strasenburgh Planetarium would close for renovations to its Star Theater and lobby beginning Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. After installation of a state-of-the-art, full-dome projection system and new open floor plan with movable seats, the Planetarium will be a powerful, flexible instrument for scientific and artistic exploration. RMSC expects the project to be completed by the year’s end.

“The Strasenburgh Planetarium is in need of vital upgrades and renovations, and as we celebrate its 50th anniversary there is no better time to take this bold step forward,” said Kate Bennett, CEO, RMSC. “The Planetarium made headlines when it opened in 1968 as the first venue of its kind to use a computer to control its projection equipment, and modernizing the Planetarium will once again put us at the forefront of innovation. For the past 50 years, we have invited audiences to journey across the universe with us; this renovation will provide opportunities to ignite an interest in astronomy and a passion for learning and discovery in a new generation of explorers.”

After considerable research, RMSC selected Evans & Sutherland’s Digistar 6 as the projection system for its Star Theater. The powerful system will give staff the ability to bring a new sense of wonder to the Planetarium’s star shows using current NASA data and brilliant color to transport visitors around Earth and other planets, as well as through space.

“The renovated Strasenburgh Planetarium will be a powerful, flexible instrument for scientific and artistic exploration,” said Steve Fentress, director, RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium. “Our new technology will allow audiences to fly around Earth and through the universe as we create shows and simulations using recent scientific data. Our new seats will encourage visitors to sit up in anticipation of exploration, and allow us to experiment with seating arrangements and experiences we haven’t yet imagined. As a result of these improvements we will offer visitors from throughout the region an improved experience that we hope will be not just a day’s fun, but also a significant part of their lives.”

The Strasenburgh Planetarium renovation project will include: replacing carpeting and seating in the Star Theater; installing a Digistar 6 full-dome projection system; installing new LED lighting with programmable color mixing around the periphery of the dome; and upgrading the input portion of the sound system. The Planetarium’s new technology will also mean the retirement of its 53 Kodak 35mm slide projectors, after a half-century of projecting custom-made panoramas and multi-image animations. The 50-year-old Zeiss Mark VI star projector, known to children as “Carl,” will remain in this phase of renovations, and laser shows will continue, incorporating the new full-dome projection capability.

Outside the theater, the Planetarium lobby will have a new food and beverage service bar for special events, improved lighting and electrical service, and remodeled public restrooms for better accessibility. Archictectural design for the lobby work is by LaBella Associates, with construction under the management of DGA Builders.

RMSC is funding the renovation primarily through private donations, including a major gift from an anonymous donor and two HemiStar HM4K-178 HL 4K fisheye projection lenses for the Digistar 6 projection system donated by Rochester-based optics manufacturer, Navitar, Inc.

New York State Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle also announced $500,000 in assistance, provided through the New York State Economic Development Program (NYSEDP).

“The Strasenburgh Planetarium is a truly one of a kind community asset that provides children, families, and people of all ages a front-row seat to a show unlike any other, and an opportunity to experience and celebrate the magic and mystery of our universe,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle. “That is why as we celebrate the Planetarium’s 50th anniversary, I am so excited and proud to have been able to secure $500,000 in state funding that will support much-needed renovations and improvements that will ensure this incredible community resource remains a vibrant centerpiece of Rochester’s cultural landscape.” 

The Strasenburgh Planetarium opened to the public in September 1968, a gift to the citizens of Rochester from benefactors Edwin and Clara Strasenburgh, “dedicated to the promise of a fuller understanding and appreciation of the order and majesty of the Universe…and [as a] lasting monument to [the Strasenburghs’] concern for the cultural and spiritual enrichment of this community. NASA Administrator James E. Webb was guest speaker at the Planetarium’s dedication ceremony. Since then, generations of Rochesterians have explored the wonders of the universe through star shows, giant-screen films, educational programs for students and lifelong learners, special events and features, laser shows, and more.

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