The Lucile M. Wright Air Museum will soon be taking area students on a trip to the farthest known reaches of space.
The museum recently gave a demonstration of its internally constructed planetarium for the board of trustees prior to its afternoon meeting.
As museum board members assembled to conduct business, they were first treated to the capabilities of the long awaited planetarium. The demonstration was given by Chris Centi, space science coordinator, and showcased a number of features from various programs and YouTube videos formatted for a projection onto a geodesic dome.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
Using a program called "Stellarium," Centi demonstrated a time-lapse feature, as well as close-ups on various planets, galaxies and constellations. Centi then took to YouTube to play a laser show with bed music, as well as a segment of a documentary which provided a chronological look at the advancement of mankind's space program.
According to Centi, who constructed the planetarium, getting it up and running has been a journey of its own.
"On Oct. 31, the board approved a contract to do a planetarium," Centi said. "So, I actually started on it that first week in November, and it was a slow start."
Centi said, after taking measurements of the room which was to house the dome and painting the walls a dark shade, he first contacted Jamestown Container Company about providing specifically cut triangular cardboard pieces to form the dome. He said the first delay occurred when he attempted to construct the dome from the first set of cardboard pieces.
"When Jamestown Container actually did the cardboard, the measurements didn't come out exactly how they were supposed to be. So, when we put it together, it didn't form into a dome," he said.
Luckily, the second set of triangles were measured correctly and the dome was constructed successfully by gluing and stapling the pieces together. After the joints were sealed with joint tape and wood glue, the dome was then treated with two coats of off-white paint for reflective purposes.
Edward Martiny, museum curator, said the cardboard was provided and cut by Dave Spitz and John Owens of Jamestown Container, and the museum wishes to recognize their efforts. Also assisting in the construction were Charlie Brown, Jamestown Community College intern, and Roger Williams, a volunteer.
"They were very instrumental in helping us build the planetarium," he said.
According to Martiny, the biggest delay came about through the process of updating the planetarium's projection system.
"We were using my poor old laptop and a projector that we got for peanuts on Amazon," Martiny said. "We needed the hi-def 1920 by 1080 resolution, and my poor little laptop and the projector we were using could only do 600 to 800. So, it was a little fuzzy."
Centi said it was for this reason that the planetarium was not functional earlier in the year, as originally anticipated.
"This a project that I thought was failing at one point, and I wanted to make it succeed. And I think I've got it to the point where I want it now, but I'm tweaking it now to make it better," he said.
Martiny said the issue of finding an upgraded computer and projection system was resolved through a field of interest grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and a donation by Willow Bay Computer Solutions. He said much of the technical support for running the new computer was provided by Norman Thomas at Willow Bay Computers. The stand housing the computer and projector was constructed and donated by Brent Harkness at JCC's Manufacturing Technology Institute.
Now that the planetarium is in its testing phase, Centi said the museum is looking to begin providing its services to the public through several programs.
"We're going to have public programs including scheduled shows that people can come to," Centi said. "And with the schools, I'm going to contact the science teachers in all the schools in the county so we can get school groups in. And then when a school group comes in, half of them can come into the planetarium and the other half can do a tour of the museum and Fly to Learn and the Mars yard.
"The general public thing would probably be on a Wednesday evening and Saturday," he continued. "With the school groups, probably based on hours, they'll be by appointment. And that will give us information on what hours we should be open."
Martiny added: "We're also going to cater to home school groups, scout troops, church youth groups, YMCA and YWCA summer groups and the Boys and Girls Club. Anything with kids."
Although the museum is not operating on a firm timeline regarding when the planetarium will begin offering its services to the public, Centi said the tentative start date is set for mid-October.