CHAMPAIGN – If you want to learn more about the solar system but you're too old for "Rusty Rocket's Last Blast," Parkland College's Staerkel Planetarium has a new show for you.
"The Planets" is the first show covering the entire solar system and aimed at adults that the Planetarium has offered since "Odyssey" – the show it featured when it opened in 1987.
"It fills a niche," said David Leake, director of the Staerkel Planetarium, of the new show. "We haven't done something like this in a while."
The Planetarium has featured adult-oriented shows on individual planets or groups of planets, but not the entire solar system.
"The solar system, I think, interests everybody," Leake said. "We're hoping we can get a lot of adults back out here."
"The solar system is our home in the galaxy," added Waylena McCully, a production designer for the Planetarium. "It's our neighborhood."
The "bread and butter" of the Planetarium is catering to the schools with shows aimed at children, such as "Rusty Rocket's Last Blast," Leake said. But the venue tries to offer something of interest for all community members, he said.
"The Planets" goes through the formation of the sun and planets, then talks about the characteristics of each individual planet, and other objects in our solar system, such as the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and the planets located around other stars.
The show was written and distributed by the Southeastern Planetarium Association. Parkland bought the show, which consisted of still images, video, a soundtrack and narration by Kate Mulgrew, who starred in "Star Trek: Voyager."
Then McCully took those pieces and decided what to use, where images would be projected in the dome, and how the images would flow from one to another.
The Planetarium staff also decided what images of their own to add. McCully added about 25 images, including some outlines of constellations, images of planets found near other stars, and visualizations of what objects in the farthest reaches of the solar system might look like.
"It's a neat soundtrack, some dazzling images," Leake said of the show.
Some Parkland astronomy professors have already arranged for a showing of "The Planets" to their classes. Leake said the Planetarium will do some audience surveys, to see what viewers like about the show and see if they are interested in more like it.
"The Planets" opens this weekend. It will be shown at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and the show runs through April. For information about the Planetarium's shows and schedule, go to www.parkland.edu/planetarium .