Upgraded USC Aiken DuPont Planetarium Reopens, Promises Enhanced Experiences for Visitors

Staff Report From Aiken CEO

Monday, June 11th, 2018

The University of South Carolina Aiken celebrates the reopening of the upgraded DuPont Planetarium housed in the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center.

More than 20 years after it first opened, the planetarium now boasts a state-of-the-art projection system, expanded seating, and brand new shows.

Now equipped with a Digistar 6 planetarium projection system, guests will enjoy watching full-color shows that surround them in the domed facility. This new technology enhances visitors' experiences and replaces the Digistar II system, which was cutting edge at the time it was installed when the DuPont Planetarium first opened in September 1995.

New shows which highlight the capabilities of the Digistar 6 system include: Magic Tree House: Space Mission; Seven Wonders; and Digistar 6 Special Effects Extravaganza.

The Magic Tree House show is based on the beloved children's book series. The main characters -- Jack and Annie - travel in a magical treehouse to explore space. Through their adventures, they encounter an astronomer and an astronaut and learn about books that help them discover interesting facts about space. This show is geared for audiences ages 4-10.

Ruth Patrick Science Education Center's longtime supporter and donor, Dr. Rose Lee Hayes, sponsored Seven Wonders, a show that highlights the ancient wonders of the world, as they appeared thousands of years ago. Audiences will have the opportunity to explore the Great Pyramid, stand in the shadow of the towering Colossus and experience the rest of the world's Seven Wonders. Additionally, they will learn how the wonders were created. The target audience for this film is ages 8 and up.

Digistar 6 Special Effects Extravaganza shows off the special effects capabilities of the newly installed system. This film is appropriate for all ages, but it does included fast-paced motion, which may make some visitors queasy.

For a schedule of shows and ticket prices, go to: rpsec.usca.edu/planetarium.

As always, weather permitting, the RPSEC Observatory, which houses the Bechtel Telescope, will be open for 30 minutes after public shows. There is no cost for these public observatory sessions. A variety of other telescopes are also available for stargazing and celestial viewing.

The DuPont Planetarium chamber houses the only known "camera obscura" that shines on the inside of a planetarium dome. The Camera Obscura projects an image without the aid of a lens. The idea of the Camera Obscura is said to date back to Aristotle though the camera was not invented until 1267 AD. The Camera Obscura works in a dark room or a box with a hole on one side of it. From this single tiny hole come images of objects from outside the room to the wall on the other side of the hole.

The planetarium is a gift to the campus and community from DuPont employees who believed in education and invested in its construction.

This September, the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center celebrates 30 years of infusing the love of STEM. The faculty and staff supports K-12 students and their teachers by providing hands-on, high-impact STEM programs, activities and classroom materials; maintaining science collections, including a Velociraptor egg; and hosting special STEM-focused competitions and events.

This cooperative effort by the University of South Carolina Aiken, local industry, and public-school districts in the Central Savannah River Area, establishes a permanent program for enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education in the elementary, middle and high schools of the area.

"Our hands-on approach to teaching is designed to help people experience the beauty, the order and the power of science and mathematics, as well as the interest and fun of discovery," said Dr. Gary Senn, director.

"A visit to the RPSEC enables students, teachers and the public to experience science and mathematics in a challenging yet exciting way."

Since its inception, the RPSEC has had more than 1.6 million program visits. This past year, the RPSEC offered more than 1,800 STEM-focused programs that resulted in almost 83,000 program visits by students, teachers, parents and the public. Of those program visits, more than 62,000 were from K-12 students from 83 schools from throughout South Carolina and Georgia.