Strasenburgh Planetarium, 663 East Ave., Rochester, recently closed for renovations to its Star Theater and lobby.
The planetarium plans to install a full-dome projection system and open floor plan with moveable seats. Rochester Museum and Science Center expects the project to finish by the end of the year.
“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 of 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.”
RMSC selected the Digistar 6 from Evans & Sutherland as the projection system for its Star Theater. It will give staff the ability to use 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 of 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 renovation project will replace carpeting and seating in the Star Theater, install a Digistar 6 full-dome projection system, install new LED lighting with programmable color mixing around the periphery of the dome and upgrade the input portion of the sound system. The planetarium’s new technology means the retirement of its 53 Kodak 35mm slide projectors after a half-century of projecting custom 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. 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. Architectural design for the lobby work is by LaBella Associates, with construction under the management of DGA Builders.
RMSC is funding the renovation 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 optics manufacturer Navitar Inc.
Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-136th District, announced $500,000 in assistance through the New York State Economic Development Program.
“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,” Morelle said. “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.