The Digistar 3 brings the universe to BCC

Written by: Adam Magnoni
Saturday, June 21 was a quiet day on the BCC campus. It marked the last weekend before summer classes began, yet there was a group that ranged from young to old, from student to employee to professor, all on hand to propel themselves out into the stratosphere and explore the mystery that is our universe. BCC’s own Willard Geer Planetarium (B 244) unveiled the Digistar 3, a digital star-projector that has recently received a quarter-million dollar upgrade. As the audience for the first of three sold out showings began to line up, many eyes were skyward to catch a glimpse of the evening sky. All were taking in what the naked eye could see before experiencing what even founder Professor Willard Geer would have had trouble imagining. One man in line recounted December in New York, 1953. He was there to see the Spitz A1A star projector, a classic tool in the trade, but a far cry from what the audience was about to experience. As the crowd filed into the 60 seat planetarium music from “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” played softly from the room’s speakers. The projector, that is the size of two large filing cabinets, dominates the center of the room. Being under the 30-foot dome has an abyss-like quality; as one gazes up it is hard to see as there is no focal-point. The eye gets lost searching for an anchor and much like the unending universe, none is found. The classroom is dotted with globes of all kinds as our guide fusses with a bank of computers getting ready to start the first of two short programs for the evening. Each showing began with a 12-minute, BCC produced demonstration of the projector’s capabilities. A short history of the planetarium and its’ founder, Willard Geer, was given. Geer was a founding father of the color television, so we were enjoying the many fruits of his labors. This was followed by a 20-minute astronomy show, “Wonders of the Universe.” The program gave the audience a front-row seat that started with the big-bang theory and traveled onward light-years as stars formed, and then burnt-out. Extreme time and pressure toyed with the building-blocks of the universe until we reached our destination: earth. All told in brilliant 3-D, high-definition. The equipment and technology now makes it possible to show IMAX movies with a complete 360 degree view. The projector took us from where the technology began, back in the twilight days, right up to what can be achieved today. BCC is the only public digital planetarium in Washington and one of only five in the world to use the new Digistar 3. The viewer is essentially put at the center of the universe, able to pivot in any direction on the compass and then travel light-years in just a moment’s time. “With this upgrade to solid-form, full-color, 3-D perspective,