Science building features state-of-the-art planetarium

by Sarah Eidemiller, Staff Writer

While other schools may have ordinary planetariums, SVC is among the first in the country to install a new, cutting-edge digital full-dome technology. Not only can it project the nighttime sky, but it can also portray views from any single point in space, even from other planets. It would not be possible to explore such sights with a typical projector, making Saint Vincent’s new model, the Angleo J. Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit, a state-of-the-art planetarium.

This addition was made possible by a gift from a 1948 graduate, Angelo Taiani, who had a prosperous career as an aerospace engineer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“I think this new planetarium and exhibit will bring recognition to the nation’s space program and serve Saint Vincent students, as well as the western Pennsylvania area and beyond,” Taiani said in a recent news release. “I hope this new facility will help students get excited about the importance of interplanetary space exploration and the career opportunities in this field.”

Students and faculty are impressed with the beauty of the planetarium and are excited to use its new facilities.

“I like that it’s visible right out in front and can be seen as the building is approached,” said Diane Turnshek, who teaches astronomy at SVC. “Nothing proclaims a building’s designation like a planetarium or an observatory. It says, ‘science lives here’.”

The new planetarium is part of the 45,000 square feet of recent construction on the 39 million dollar Sis and Herman Dupre Science Pavillion, which replaced the former amphitheatre and commons building with a modern two-story educational center with an open reception area, as well as high-tech laboratories and classroom and support facilities. The first floor of the center includes an 80-seat lecture hall with a 3-D digital projector, a digital imaging laboratory, a conference room, and the planetarium. The upper level houses laboratories for biochemistry, cell and genetics, microbiology, organic chemistry, synthetic chemistry and advanced chemistry.

“I’m honored to be part of such an up and coming campus,” said junior chemistry major Travis Tokach. “I like discovering new things about life, and I enjoy the search for new knowledge. I’m really impressed by the planetarium; it looks so good with all the seating arrangements. I am looking forward to checking out some events there and seeing it more up close.”

Junior biology major Cornelius Boggs said that he feels “advanced” because of the new additions to the science building. “Saint Vincent’s reputation was always at the top, but the science center will only enhance it more,” he said, “and the new planetarium will only increase the experience here.”

The planetarium not only features a brand new 24-foot dome with a Spitz SciDome full-dome projector and a seating capacity of 30, but the new high resolution system also displays 1.5 million pixels with a 1400 x 1050 digital projector with a fisheye lens. Nearly 20 million stars and one million galaxies can be displayed. Twenty-two high back desks and recliner chairs are provided so that viewers can be comfortable while they take in the sights. Telescopes in the new observatory include 12 and 14-inch Schmitt Cassegrains, and several smaller telescopes.

Turnshek said that the new facility will make teaching astronomy much easier.

“There’s only so much I can do waving my hands in the air to symbolize celestial events,” she said. “The telescopes in the new center are great for just looking through at planets, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies, and are easy to operate and can be used to do scientific research like variable star photometry, and spectroscopy of a variety of objects. We have a wonderful teacher education program, and now the fresh new teachers we send out into the world will be able to comprehend better what they will be required to teach. In the world, astronomy is often the only science class teachers have had, so it’s our last chance to correct misconceptions and show off the scientific method.”

Public shows are planned starting this fall, and children are invited to come in large groups because of the carpeted floor, which will allow them to lye back under the stars.

“It’s cool to be able to see where the sun travels when the earth orbits around it,” said junior liberal arts major, Charmaine Jemison, who is taking astronomy this fall with Dr. John Smentanka, who is officially in charge of the planetarium. “The one class, we went to Australia to view the constellations, and it was amazing to do that without leaving my seat. You have to experience it to capture the true beauty.”

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