May. 1, 2019
CWU Planetarium Renamed Lydig Planetarium
One of Central Washington University’s newest attractions recently received a new name. Following a naming ceremony last month, the planetarium in Discovery Hall (formerly known as Science II) was dedicated as the Lydig Planetarium.
Named for Lydig Construction, which built Discovery Hall, the Lydig Planetarium first opened in the fall of 2017. It has been primarily used for public outreach and astronomy class lectures as a way to see the solar system, constellations and other objects in space in real time.
“It’s essentially a dome that projects the solar system and other objects in space,” noted Dannica Price, engagement program manager for the College of the Sciences.
The facility is fully digital, containing six projectors to aid in giving shows full authenticity. Its featured piece of software, World Wide Telescope, provides audience members with an immersive experience. World Wide Telescope allows the planetarium to project not only the night sky in visible light, but also the sky in other wavelengths of light, a 3D model of the solar system, and overlays of constellations.
The Lydig Planetarium has also been used as a form of public outreach, with monthly planetarium shows being held by both the Physics Department and the Astronomy Club as well as periodic shows for visiting school groups. More than 3,000 people have attended planetarium shows since it first opened.
Connor Toulou, president of the Astronomy Club and physics student at CWU, gave some details about the purpose of the student-led star shows.
“The main purpose of the shows is that they bring science to the community and inform those who are interested in the intricacies of our current understanding of astronomical topics,” he explained.
The CWU Astronomy Club’s mission on their website states that its goal is “to explore strange new worlds through our telescopes, to seek out new knowledge and share our appreciation of the night sky, to boldly go where no club has gone before.”
The Astronomy Club hosts monthly “Star Parties”, shows put on by members as a form of outreach to fellow students. Past shows have featured looks at objects including Jupiter’s moons, Saturn’s rings, and binary star systems.
Depending on the weather conditions, the shows begin with either an informational slideshow via PowerPoint or move directly to the planetarium showcase.
“There was a really good black hole presentation once,” said Trace Hislop, a biology education student and former club member. “It basically made the Astronomy Club what it is today.”
CWU physics professor Bruce Palmquist and several interns are in charge of conducting planetarium shows.
“The planetarium is important not only for public outreach, but also in order to teach astronomy students how to find things in the night sky,” Palmquist said. “Once per week we meet for training so they can put shows on themselves.” he explained.
Lydig Construction, with offices in Spokane, Bellevue, and Kennewick, donated $250,000 to CWU for naming rights to the planetarium.
For more information, please visit https://www.cwu.edu/sciences/cwu-lydig-planetarium.