Chesterton Tribune

Ball State OKs $4.6M planetarium, largest in state

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MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Ball State University has approved plans for a $4.6 million planetarium its director says will dazzle visitors with projections of 10 million stars.

The 6,500-sq.-foot planetarium approved Friday by Ball State’s trustees will boast a 52-foot diameter dome that will make it Indiana’s largest planetarium when it opens in 2014, school officials said.

Ball State professor of physics and astronomy Ron Kaitchuck told The Star Press for a story published Sunday ( ) that the school’s old planetarium built in 1967 can project only 1,500 stars.

“Think eight-track tapes,” Kaitchuck, the planetarium’s director, said with a laugh.

He said not only will the new planetarium be capable of projecting 10 million stars but visitors will be able to use binoculars to zoom in on star clusters floating in the vast expanses of projected space.

The planetarium, with seating for about 140, will be built on the west side of the Cooper Science Building.

Nearly half of the project’s $4.6 million cost will come from a gift from 1971 Ball State graduate Charlie Brown, the co-owner of Southern Bells, a chain of Taco Bell and KFC restaurants.

The university will seek additional donor participation to fund the remaining funds.

Brown said he hopes the planetarium will become an important resource and source of inspiration for the community, especially youth.

“My goal is to get the biggest and best planetarium we can at Ball State to serve this area of the country,” he said.

The planetarium will feature a GOTO Chronos II Hybrid star projector capable of such feats as accurately portraying the night sky 10,000 years into the future or the past within seconds.

It also will be able to transport visitors to Mars.

“It gets bigger and bigger and bigger until you are flying over the surface of Mars and moving through the canyons of Mars,” Kaitchuck said. “We can fly there. We can move through the star clusters or wherever you want to go.”

He the new facility, the culmination of 15 years of hopes and planning, will rank in the top 10 among the nation’s 363 university-run planetariums.



Posted 7/24/2012