History of the Arne Slettebak Planetarium
The Arne Slettabak Planetarium is a 63-seat 30-foot digital dome theater located on the 5th floor of Smith Laboratory on the OSU main campus in Columbus, Ohio. We have been offering educational programs on the night sky to OSU students and the central Ohio community since 1967.
Our original projector was a venerable old Spitz A3P opto-mechanical star ball installed in 1967 when the department moved into the then-new 5th floor extension of Smith Laboratory. Designed by Spitz Inc., the A3P projector system is one of the most successful commercial planetariums ever made, sold to many colleges and schools throughout the US in the 1960s and 70s. By the early 1970s, more than half of school planetaria in the United States were Spitz A3Ps, and about a hundred of them are still in operation today. Our old projector could show up to 1500 stars, the solar system in the past and future, and the full range of solar and lunar motions.
By 2011, however, the Planetarium was beginning to show its age. The roof sprang multiple leaks, causing extensive water damage to the dome as well as minor damage to the A3P control console. The old fiberglass classroom seats were getting worn out and could no longer be replaced, and ceiling tiles had begun to decay and fall down.
With funding from the Astronomy Department and the Arts and Sciences College, we began a project to redesign and refit the planetarium for the 21st century. On June 1, 2012, the OSU Planetarium was temporarily closed for an extensive renovation and modernization. The upgrades included gutting the old room to its walls including all fixtures and the air conditioning system, repairing our leaky roof, installing a new NanoSeam projection dome, energy-efficient LED lighting, a 5.1 digital surround-sound system, and topped off with the installation of a state-of-the-art high-definition Spitz XD digital full-dome projection system to replace the A3P. The room configuration was brought up to modern planetarium standards with new custom seating and improvements to enhance ADA accessibility. We re-opened to the public in October 2013.
The old A3P wasn't junked, however, instead we donated it and our old project dome to the Perkins Observatory in Delaware Ohio where we hope it will enjoy many more years of service.