A state of the art digital planetarium will light up the dome in the University of Toledo's Ritter Planetarium. Beginning in the fall semester, the planetarium will present programs using the world's first "SciDome XD", a high-resolution digital display system that transports audiences to the furthest reaches of the universe.
Unlike the 44-year-old mechanical projector that it's replacing, SciDome XD is a 3-dimensional computerized space simulator, capable of taking viewers to other planets in our solar system, or to galaxies millions of light years away. The system, manufactured by the Spitz Company in PA, will use extremely bright, high definition video projection to cover the dome with breathtaking, ultra-high resolution imagery. Compared to most HD televisions that show about 1.3 million pixels, SciDome XD delivers over 6 million pixels that surround the audience in breathtaking, full-color visuals.
SciDome allows an operator to guide the program live – taking audiences on a virtual tour through time and space. Because the system gets its simulation power from Starry Night Dome (a custom "full-dome version" of the popular software used in schools, in homes and by amateur astronomers worldwide), audiences can leave the Earth, observe details on the surface of our planet, even fly to distant galaxies.
SciDome XD's technological innovations include the use of two ultra-bright video projectors, and specialized fish-eye lenses for spherical projection. The two projectors are blended into one seamless image - the result is uniform, realistic imagery across the whole dome screen. The audience will see pin-point stars and ultra-clear graphics projected onto the planetarium's 40-foot diameter dome. The system also includes a unique, auto alignment feature (called "Auto Warp") that uses a digital camera and software to automatically align the two projectors into a perfectly seamless image.
SciDome XD is the most recent innovation from Spitz, Inc., the 64-year old company responsible for installing the majority of the world's planetariums and domes. The SciDome product was first introduced in 2002, and is used in colleges, high schools and museums around the world. In addition to showing interactive astronomy demonstrations, the SciDome XD can also display "fulldome movies" – the planetarium equivalent of IMAX films. Hundreds of compelling shows can be licensed – with diverse subjects like weather, marine biology, life sciences, chemistry, mathematics and chemistry.
The Ritter Planetarium offers developmentally appropriate programs, geared to Ohio and Michigan science standards and benchmarks, and together with the Brooks Observatory, serves the public and over 1000 undergraduate students annually. The theater will receive a face-lift this summer including a new 5.1 surround sound system, new seats, control desk, and carpeting in addition to the digital projection system.