Architecture and Technology
Design and Purpose of the Facility
The Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium is designed to provide a unique learning environment primarily for astronomy and science education. State-of-the-art multi-media projection systems extend this capability to serve a variety of disciplines and the facility further functions as a flexible venue for events, conferences and meetings.
Structural design elements are based upon a six pointed star reflected in concrete scoring and overhead trusses throughout the facility. A circular, sixteen-foot high wall punctuated by eight-inch vertical slits, inspired by ancient Stonehenge, encloses a large courtyard leading to the entrance. Large metal letters affixed to the wall identifies this as The Gheens Science Hall, in recognition of the Gheen's Foundation that provided major funding for the project.
A large lobby allows placement of live, interactive learning exhibits in science and astronomy, displays of art and technology and a prominent donors wall. The semicircular multipurpose room adjacent to the lobby provides flexible seating for forty-four and serves as instructional space for classes, workshops, and teacher education programs.
Theater Equipment and Design
A massive concrete truncated cone structure is the prominent design feature, with the words Rauch Planetarium repeated in silver letters along the uppermost circumference of the tower, honoring Rabbi Joseph Rauch for whom the original planetarium was named in 1962. This structural envelope encloses a fifty-five foot diameter hemispherical dome, tilted 12 degrees, which comprises the planetarium theater. The theater is designed for highly accurate presentations of astronomy, surrounding the audience with a 360 degree projected view of the night sky. Over 4000 stars can be projected from the Spitz 1024 projector manufactured by Spitz Inc.
One hundred and sixty theater style, unidirectional seats, corresponding to the tilted dome visually thrust viewers into the simulated starfield. The Spitz Electric Sky Immersavision Video Panorama™ system permits realistic projections of planets and celestial objects within a 200-degree horizontal by 60-degree vertical field of vision. The incorporation of three dimensional computer modeled imagery, 360 degree panoramic slide and video projection in concert with an advanced digital multi-channel 15,0000 watt surround sound system combines to create a truly awesome virtual reality experience supporting not only astronomy but a variety of arts and sciences and edutainment programming.
The Audio Visual Imagineering Omniscan Laser Projection System™ provides a dazzling array of effects and colors that illuminate astronomical/scientific concepts in ways that only full-color laser images can communicate within a full-dome (360o x 180o) environment. With Ominiscan Laser projection, constellations come to life through animation, black holes fill the entire dome, and spiraling 3-D matter astound each viewer.