Seeing Stars

By on 27 March, 2014 in Carole King, Fun with 0 Comments

planetariumAt long last, Gayle Planetarium in our beloved Oak Park is getting noticed and appreciated. The Planetarium has been closed since late January for upgrades and officially reopened earlier this month. This $500,000 renovation project was funded by the city of Montgomery, who owns the Planetarium, and Troy University at Montgomery, who operates it, with support from the Daniel Foundation, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama and the Alabama Education Trust Fund.

Rick Evans, who has been executive director for 18 years, said the upgrade was more than necessary. The new planetarium system installed in February — the Super Mediaglobe II — is the world’s first full-color single-lens digital planetarium system. It projects simulations of the latest information gathered about our universe and presents it with leading-edge digital dome technology. The 3D digital planetarium not only simulates the earth and sky, but can take audiences all the way to the edge of the known universe. In addition to the simulations of stars, constellations, and planets, the Super Mediaglobe II projects natural sky occurrences including lightning, clouds, rain, snow and aurora that can be superimposed on the background sky, or even a movie. This remarkable ability creates more natural and realistic scenes to educate and inspire students and families. This new technology improves the viewer’s experience to the Planetarium and allows for exploration of Earth through the use of continually updated satellite images of our entire planet’s land, ocean, atmosphere and climate.

Incorporating a digital 25,000 watt Dolby 5.1 surround sound system, the W. A. Gayle Planetarium Theater is now capable of accommodating a wide range of programs, from lectures to film series to live performances. But first and foremost, the planetarium is a remarkable educational resource, allowing visitors to explore their universe through traditional live star talks and immersive virtual journeys to the far reaches of the cosmos.

“We have a digital, three-dimensional map of the entire universe. We can lift off from Earth and fly out of our solar system, out of our galaxy, and out to the very edge of the universe. Or we can orbit Earth, using satellite data to observe and understand our planet in a whole new way. It’s hard to imagine a more powerful set of tools for exploring our universe and our place in it,” Evans explains.

After Oak Park was reopened in 1965, the Montgomery City Commission decided to allot $180,000 from the 1965-66 city’s fiscal year reserve account of the general fund for the construction of a planetarium. This innovative idea was to complement the existing plans to transform Oak Park into botanical gardens adjacent to the interstate highway that was then being constructed. With design drawings done by Pearson, Humphries and Jones, the construction contract was awarded to Andrew and Dawson Construction Company. During the nine months of construction, Dow Chemical Company temporarily created a large 50 foot diameter styrofoam form for poured concrete. This styrofoam form was left in place for thermal insulation after the round concrete dome was completed. Upon completion, the Planetarium was dedicated and named for William. A. (Tacky) Gayle, Mayor of Montgomery from 1951 through 1959.

“We can study everything from anatomy to physiology,” Ray White, chancellor of TSUM said. “We can go into a human body, or we can travel 10 billion light years in space. We can change it to fit the audience.”

“This is truly something you have to see to believe,” Evans said.

W.A. Gayle Planetarium is located in historic Oak Park at 1010 Forest Avenue. Public show hours for the Planetarium are Monday – Thursday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Starting in April 2014 a public show will be added on the first and third Saturday of each month at 2 p.m. Admission is $6.50 for ages 5 and above and reservations for groups can be made at 334-625-4799

Carole King (not the singer, just the hummer) enjoys midtown living from South Capitol Parkway in Capitol Heights where she has lived for 25+years. Carole has been the historic properties curator for the Landmarks Foundation that manages Old Alabama Town for 28 years and is passionate about neighborhoods, their architectural character, their people, and their preservation!

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