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Planetarium Renovation Project


In June 2012 we closed the OSU Planetarium for an extensive renovations.  This was a full "gut rehab": we removed all of the old planetarium components (dome, projector, seats, artwork, lights, the works), stripped the room down to bare concrete and walls, and built a completely new 21st century digital planetarium from the floors up.

The primary tasks of the renovation were as follows:

  • Fixing the leaking roof (this has to happen before all other work can proceed)
  • Replacing the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system, bringing it up to the same level as the Smith Lab HVAC renovation
  • Removing and replacing the electrical wiring and all electrical fixtures, bringing the room up to modern code and add new wiring, data, and audio cabling runs for the new system.
  • Removing all of the old (mostly fallen down) fiberglass insulation panels behind the dome.  We then cleaned and sealed the bare walls, installed a vapor barrier, foam thermal and acoustic insulation, and painted all surfaces pitch black.  All coatings were brought up to current fire safety code.
  • Removing the old, broken fiberglass seating and pedestals, replacing them with modern planetarium seating.  The new planetarium has 63 high-backed, padded planetarium seats, with 4 ADA-approved handicapped-accessible seats (two slide-in type, and three that can be removed to accommodate full-size wheelchairs with associated companion seats).
  • Removing the old floor tiles and replacing them with carpeting.
  • Repainting the walls charcoal gray to cut down on side scatter from the projector and providing fresh surfaces for displaying new astronomical photography and artwork.
  • Add outer doors to the entrances with new inner doors to create "light-lock" entrances.
  • Removing the 45-year-old water-damaged dome, and replacing it with a new Spitz NanoSeam dome optimized for digital projection, including new cove trough.
  • Removing the 45-year old Spitz A3P projector and replacing it with a state-of-the-art Spitz SciDome XD high-definition digital projection system.
  • Removing the old incandescent dome lights and installing energy-efficient LED lighting.
  • Removing the old speakers and wiring and installing a dome-mounted 5.1 digital surround-sound system with theater-grade loudspeakers.  The sound system includes a radio transmitter with portable wireless receivers for our hard of hearing or deaf guests.

These improvements give us a 21st century digital planetarium that will allow us to show views of the sky from anywhere on earth, digitally fly by the planets, and travel to stars and distant galaxies.

Renovation History

After a quick start in June 2012 and removal of all the fixtures, old projector, and old dome at the end of August 2012, we ran into the first project delay with the repair of the leaky roof.  The roof repair was the main pacing item for the project: none of the inside renovation work could begin until there was no remaining danger from water leaks. The damage to the roof was more extensive than originally thought, and required extensive repairs that were not completed until January 2013, many months later than originally expected.  

Once the roof was sealed, we experienced further delays lining up the architectural work inside the room, the construction contracts, and delays getting approvals for some of the building materials (for example, the insulating material and paint used behind the dome had to meet strict fire safety rules but had not previously been used at OSU so we had to go through a full qualification process).  These problems were all addressed and solved, and work on the interior resumed in May 2013.

Work on the interior began in earnest in May 2013 and by the end of June the interior work on the room was completed to the point that we were ready to install the new dome.  The parts for the new Spitz NanoSeam dome arrived on July 8th, and took about 3 weeks to install.  The work was done by two specialists from Spitz with help from two local construction workers.  The dome was up and completed on July 29.

After the dome was installed, the interior finishing work began.  The walls were cleaned and painted, the new light-locked double doors were be built, and all the old electrical wiring and fixtures were replaced, bringing the room up to code.  New carpeting was installed, finishgin the prep work on the room.  This work took most of August 2013.

On August 20th of 2013 the components of the Spitz SciDome XD projector system were delivered and unpacked.  A crew from Spitz arrived a week later to install the projector, control console and computers, dome LED lighting, and the sound system.  After the basic installation was complete, the seating installer (Ash Enterprises) came in for 2-3 days during the first week of September to install the new planeatrium seats.

Finally, on September 6, 2013, our Spitz SciDome XD system was fired up for the first time for alignment and calibration.  After reaching the exciting "first light" milestone we still had a busy month ahead tuning up the system, getting training in the new hardware, and working out all of the many little details that needed to get our new planetarium back up on its feet.

Our first internal preview shows were held on Sunday, September 29, 2013 to general acclaim, followed by a series of warm-up shows for the astronomy department and staff of the Arts & Sciences College, topped off by a formal grand-reopening show and reception for major donors and university VIPs on Thursday, October 3, 2013.

At long last, on Saturday, October 12, 2013, we re-opened to the general public, giving 17 back-to-back free planetarium shows from 1pm until 9:30pm, along with a star party on the roof.  All of our grand-reopening shows were sold out weeks in advance, and we had another few hundred guests in attendance for the star party and walk-in shows.

We're back, and ready to start bringing the wonders of the heavens to the OSU and Central Ohio communities with our new planetarium!

Renovation Milestones