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Oct 17, 2012 6:42 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton High School To Reopen Upgraded Planetarium To Public On November 1

Oct 17, 2012 9:48 AM

The stars are shining brightly again for Southampton High School students, who, after a three-month-long, $1 million renovation of the school’s planetarium, will push the limits of all they know within the confines of the school’s walls.

The newly renamed Shinnecock Multimedia Planetarium will serve not only as a window to the universe but as a tool for teachers who want their students to get an up-close, in-depth learning experience through sight and sound.

Community members will be welcome to tour the facilities on November 1, beginning at 6 p.m., at the school’s first Community Science Night.

“There are so many capabilities,” said astronomy and Earth science teacher Ryan Munkwitz. “It’s more than seeing the night sky—you can leave the Earth, zoom and fly around the universe.”

The new streamlined Konica Minolta Super Mediaglobe II and its software have replaced the school’s antiquated and bulbous Spitz 512 projector, which could create only approximately 1,600 stars, a fraction of the 2,000 to 9,000 that can be seen in the night sky with the naked eye under ideal conditions or with newer equipment. The Mediaglobe, on the other hand, can project 118,000 stars and all the zodiac constellations, conjure up sky phenomena like the aurora borealis, travel to planets and other solar systems, and zoom out from Earth to the very edges of the universe, billions of light years away.

According to Mr. Munkwitz, Konica Minolta is the first company to use a single fisheye lens as opposed to the mechanical projection of the old spherical Spitz—somewhat of a revolution in the industry. Mr. Munkwitz can control the heavens with a click of a mouse and take his students planet-hopping and soaring from galaxy to galaxy. Reminiscent of control panels from an old “Star Trek” episode, the screen behind the planetarium’s console gives Mr. Munkwitz the ability to control where his audience is in the universe, what time they’re viewing the sky, and even what color it is.

According to Randall Dobler, the district’s director of facilities, operations and school safety, officials made the decision to go with the Mediaglobe after seeing several demonstrations of various projectors, a process that started in 2010.

Originally added to the building in the early 1970s, the planetarium had not seen an upgrade since the late 1980s. It wasn’t until district officials and Mr. Seltzer came up with a formal plan in 2010 that any movement was made on a total refurbishment.

Mr. Dobler said that the dated sound system has been replaced, as well as the carpet and the ceiling lights, which were all budgeted for in the $1.2 million renovation project, approved by voters as a capital reserve project in May 2011.

“It seemed to afford the district the most versatility with regard to programs,” he said of the Mediaglobe. “It had excellent picture quality and was well-made.”

Mr. Munkwitz, who is in his second year at the school, said he is excited to have a state-of-the-art planetarium, and the only planetarium in an East End school. “You can’t teach the students of tomorrow if you don’t have the technology of tomorrow,” he said, smiling.

With the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy shop, he has been learning the system since its installation was completed at the end of September. “There’s so much depth to each component,” he said. “You feel like you’re in it. That’s the goal—to feel like you’re not in a building but experiencing it as if it’s real.”

Of course, the sky couldn’t be as vivid as it is if the 30-foot hemispherical dome itself hadn’t been replaced as well. The dome’s panels had been showing their age through visible seams that segmented the sky. Now, not a seam is in sight, and students will be able to sit back on 85 newly refurbished seats while they explore the universe as never before.

“The facility provides an incredible resource to our kids,” said Southampton High School Principal Dr. Brian Zahn. “They can learn not just by depending on a textbook or a lecture, but by working in the planetarium.”

The hope of district officials and teachers is that the multimedia planetarium can be used across subjects. Not limited to the heavens, the Mediaglobe could be used to teach graphic design, and to screen 3D and panoramic movies of all kinds.

“You can be a blood cell floating through the blood stream,” Mr. Munkwitz said of different movies the district is looking at renting. “Some things are so abstract until you can see them. Sometimes you need to taste it, touch it or see it. The planetarium can turn an abstract concept into a concrete one.”

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We parents had a preview of the updated planetarium during the SHS open house for parents last month.

Now...what about those band uniforms we are still waiting for?

By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Oct 19, 12 9:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
(Not to say that updating the planetarium wasn't a worthy expense...it truly does present a host of learning opportunities, as well as a revenue generator should the district choose to operate it that way.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Oct 19, 12 9:22 AM
There's probably a galaxy out there, for every star that's in our own galaxy, and millions for every star you can see with the naked eye. The Universe is just mind-bendingly gargantuan in size.

This is just awesome, and very worthwhile project. I can't wait to see it!
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Oct 19, 12 2:42 PM
I agree. I remember my first trip to the planetarium in the early 80's when it was run by Mr Sherwood. I was in awe. Glad they upgraded it.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Oct 19, 12 7:35 PM
I used to go to Buhl Planetarium when I was a kid, and I've been to the Vanderbitl. I think that if more people looked up, maybe they'd realize how far we haven't gone yet.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Oct 20, 12 9:21 AM
will the planetarium be opened to the public?. if not, I believe that many would attend.
By hto (12), sag harbor on Oct 20, 12 9:47 AM
Wow, a planetarium! Here is a better idea: Google Earth and reduce my property taxes. This is insanity.
By SHPredatorDept (72), Southampton on Oct 20, 12 11:25 AM
This just goes to show you can't please anybody. A town should be boasting about having such an amazing resource within their learning community. Instead the first comment shows a parent who's not satisfied because their child hasn't received their uniform for band and then you have the angry taxpayer. Imagine living in a community that has none of these resources available to their children - what would you be complaining about then?
By BaymenNYC (59), Manhattan on Oct 20, 12 12:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
The planetarium never should have been built in the first place. How many students each year take astronomy? How many are getting full-time use from it? It is not cost effective and taxpayer money could have been better used for other areas.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Oct 20, 12 10:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
The planetarium is something for the 20th not the 21st Century. How about getting up to speed with technology? The schools in Southampton are way behind in technology instruction for both students and teachers. They all need computers or notebooks to use daily. Without this, our students are not going to be ready for the real world out there. This is a frivolous expenditure just like the "viewing stand" and concession stand for the sports fields. When will the district wake up and figure out ...more
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on Oct 22, 12 8:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
How come with its hugh budget ,several million more than WHB doesn't SHSD students all have laptops? Where does all that money Go? Oh yes it's all for the students, oh i mean the teachers/administrators. When you hire a new super next year maybe you could pay him less than the govenor of the state after all it is an easier job.Oh i forgot the standard line if we don't pay him/her alot we won't get qualified people. BS
By sandie (15), speonk on Oct 22, 12 1:28 PM