It looks like the solar system is back on campus.
Central Texas College’s Mayborn Science Theater resumed shows about nature, space, and history Monday now that theater renovations are complete.
CTC spokesman Bruce Vasbinder and planetarium Director Fred Chavez were on hand, and a staff member gave a tour of the equipment and improved visuals that are a result of the renovations.
“It’s 10 times better,” Chavez said.
He said that saying that sometimes makes people think it was bad before. Chavez said that is not the case. “It wasn’t. It was good. But now it’s great.”
The planetarium renovations cost a little over $300,000, Vasbinder said.
Chavez noted the funds came solely from the college and from an endowment by the Mayborn Foundation funded by Sue Mayborn, the Herald’s publisher.
Older, bigger servers running Windows XP were replaced by a sleek stack of thin servers running Windows 10. That’s a decades-long leap forward in terms of software.
On the domed screen that makes up the roof of the planetarium, guests viewed the distribution of asteroids in the Asteroid Belt, the planets’ orbits and a demonstration of a virtual roller coaster careening through tunnels and gorges on Titan’s ghostly moon, Titan.
The theater presented films Monday called “Spirit of America,” a laser show with music; “D-Day: Normandy 1944,” a historical piece; and “First and Farthest,” a story about American space exploration.
All shows lasted for 45 minutes and ended with a virtual roller coaster ride.
The technology has advanced considerably. Chavez pointed out an older device in the lobby that looks like a model of a spaceship in “2001: A Space Oddysey.”
Actually it was the machine behind the magic at one point. It served to light up the night sky under domes in a previous era.
“That thing is older than I am,” Chavez said, but added that some planetariums still use such equipment.
“Through the new system, which features a carefully designed package of display systems, servers, theater control system and the award-winning Uniview full-dome software, each show will provide the audience a far superior and more immersive experience than any planetarium in Texas,” according to a CTC news release. “The visualization and simulation software application of the (new) system is aimed at presenting and teaching astronomy, astrophysics and Earth-based sciences such as geography, geology, biodiversity and climatology.
“And since the Mayborn Science Theater will use the latest version of Uniview, the application will further enhance images of the night sky and provide a seamless visualization and navigation of the entire known universe from human scales all the way to the cosmic horizon.”
After talking to the Herald, Chavez and staff began preparing for a long day.
The three shows started at 1:30 p.m. and lasted most the rest of the afternoon. Guests arrived as he and Vasbinder wound up the tour.
The Mayborn Science Theater seats 180 people. The Friday night laser shows are the most popular.
The theater will begin offering weekday matinee shows each Wednesday, starting this week at 3:30 p.m.
The first show is “The Little Star That Could.”
Tickets for weekday matinee shows are $5 per person, per show and free for planetarium members.
The theater will open for weekend shows Sept. 15. Then, matinee shows will air each hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Then evening shows will be at 7, 8 and 9 p.m.
Tickets for regular shows are $7 for adults and $6 for kids.
The theater also hosts birthday parties.