Altering the Planetarium in the Rotunda and Museum at McCormick Observatory

Wood, Zachary, Astronomy, University of Virginia
Murphy, Edward, AS-Astronomy (ASTR), University of Virginia

This project is an attempt to reconfigure the University of Virginia’s planetarium in the Rotunda. Made in 2019, the original planetarium, while turned on every night automatically, is seldom used for community and public outreach and educational purposes. On top of this, some inaccuracies were noted in the original planetarium’s designs, likely due to the use of Thomas Jefferson’s original sketches for the final design and star locations (Bromley, 2019). Because of this, we made a decision to create a new planetarium using updated Raspberry Pi 4s and a more accurate sky using the planetarium software Stellarium. We intend to hire a Navajo artist to design and outline traditional Navajo constellations for our planetarium, and plan to host educational programs talking about these constellations and the cultural heritage surrounding them.

This project also involves updating the current displays at the McCormick Observatory Museum, by replacing the decades-old lightboxes with monitors connected to Raspberry Pi 4s in order to provide dynamic and multiple pictures. By swapping the lightboxes out, we are able to extend the lifetime of the displays, introduce modernized technology to the museum, and allow ourselves more mobility and options when deciding what to display in the museum.

BA (Bachelor of Arts)
astronomy, Raspberry Pi, planetarium, museum display, Rotunda
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