Portable planetarium even more mobile

January 19th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Campus News

educators and students inside the mobile Starlab planetarium

Educators and students inside the mobile Starlab planetarium

group shot of educators with the van donated to move the Starlab planetarium

The Starlab team: Z Knight, Heather Kaluna, Mark Pitts, Anna Roussanova, Geoff Mathews, Sarah Jaeggli, Kirsten Larson, Ryan Swindle and Jeff Rich

instruments used in the Starlab mobile planetarium

Instruments used in the Starlab mobile planetarium

Moving heaven and earth takes on an entirely new meaning when astronomy buffs visit the UH Institute for Astronomy’s Starlab “Portable Planetarium.”

The nylon-fabric, igloo-shaped inflatable dome can be set up just about anywhere and can accommodate up to 25 stargazers, who are treated to a magical journey through our solar system and galaxy. State-of-the-art projection equipment and software give viewers a memorable tour of the skies above Hawaiʻi.

And the mobile unit became even more portable with a donation from Honolulu Community College Physics and Astronomy Professor Mark Schindler and his wife Jo Ann, retired as head of the Hawaiʻi State Public Library System. The Schindlers made a $25,000 donation to purchase a van to transport the Starlab.

“For many years, we have been impressed by the public lectures presented by researchers from the Institute for Astronomy and the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology,” says Jo Ann Schindler. “We wanted to help support these outstanding public outreach programs so that others, both students and lifelong learners, could continue to benefit from and be inspired by the research taking place in these centers of scientific discovery.”

“As citizens, it is our responsibility to understand how the physical world actually works,” adds Mark Schindler. “The people who sailed to these islands were experts in the natural sciences. They needed to know the sky; the currents and waves; and living seamarks, such as sharks, porpoises, fish and birds. The Hawaiian people are descendents of voyagers who were knowledgeable in the areas we now call astronomy, oceanography and biology.”

Institute for Astronomy graduate student Joe Masiero appreciate the Schindlers’ help in expanding the reach of UH’s astronomical research into the schools. “The natural sciences allow us to better understand the world around us and how it works,” he says. “With this knowledge we can answer the great questions that humanity has always asked, develop better technologies to improve life for all people and find out who we ourselves really are.”

Masiero founded of the Graduate Education and Public Outreach Committee, a group of graduate students interested in bringing astronomy to students in Hawaiʻi.

In addition to support for Starlab, the Schindlers made a $25,000 contribution for sea level change research and the community outreach efforts of Chip Fletcher, chair of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at SOEST.

To join the Shindlers in supporting the Institute for Astronomy, SOEST or other UH research or outreach efforts, call the UH Foundation at (808) 956-8849 or toll free (866) 846-4262 or make a gift online; click on “make a gift” to designate recipient program.

For more information about booking Starlab, email Jeff Rich.

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