Ward Beecher Planetarium Opening Weekend 2017

Have you ever been to the Ward Beecher Planetarium? This year our planetarium is celebrating its 50-year anniversary! It’s even more exciting that over the summer the planetarium staff have been working hard to bring some exciting changes for the public.

The planetarium has recently purchased a new video projection system with assistance of a generous donation from the Beecher Foundation.

“We have a brand new SkySkan Definiti video system – we will put it through its paces and show you what you can expect for years to come,” said planetarium lecturer Tiffany Wolbrecht.

Planetarium Opening Weekend

The new addition will allow the planetarium to revolutionize their shows. It provides viewers with a brighter and higher resolution as well as a higher contrast. If that doesn’t already sound great, the system also renders 3D models in real time.

“This means that the planetarium can use its dome to travel anywhere in the universe in a matter of seconds,” said Wolbrecht. “The new system will provide variety to our live programming, but we will have new pre-recorded shows to share too.”

There will be multiple new additions to the planetarium’s season. This year’s new show it titled “Moons: Worlds of Mystery.” The show will premiere in February and is one of seven brand new shows the planetarium will be offering to the public.

The planetarium will also be bringing back their guest lecture series with two new lectures. The first, on November 3, 2017, is entitled “Galileo, Shakespeare, Van Gogh: Creative Reactions to the End of the World.” The second, on March 23, 2018, is entitled “A Quark’s Life.”

This year the planetarium will be holding their Opening Weekend lectures on Friday, September 22, 2017 at 8:00PM and Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 2:00PM and again at 8:00PM. The Opening Weekend is the kick off to their exciting new season and also where the new Sky-Skan Definiti Theater system will be premiered. If you plan to go, the doors do not open until 30 minutes prior to each showing. Seating is first come, first seated.

For more general information about the planetarium, you can peruse their website here. You can also keep up to date with the Ward Beecher Planetarium by following them on Facebook.

The Ward Beecher Planetarium Celebrates 50 Years of Education

planetarium then and nowThe Ward Beecher Planetarium was first opened to the public in March 1967. This year, for the entire academic year, we are celebrating its fiftieth anniversary or its fiftieth birthday if you prefer.

“We’re making March the anniversary extravaganza month—every weekend we’re doing something special—but we’re kicking off the celebration this semester,” said planetarium lecturer Tiffany Wolbrecht.

In the coming months, the planetarium will feature audience favorites as well as brand new content. The Mahoning Valley Astronomical Society will be visiting to talk about telescopes, the very popular Laser Weekend and First Night shows are coming this winter, and special guests will be making appearances.

“In March, we are having an alumni weekend where we bring back a lot of people who have worked in the planetarium over the course of the fifty years, including Warren Young, who was the very first planetarium director when the planetarium opened in 1967,” said Tiffany.

During this special weekend in March will be a unique lecture called Skywatch: Then and Now, which highlights what was known about space and the night sky in 1967 compared to the things we know now.

Beginning in February, the Ward Beecher Planetarium is offering a short lecture series to the public; one lecture each month until May.

“We are bringing in professional astronomers to talk about their areas of research,” said Tiffany. “They are areas of astronomy that are hot topics right now that people are really interested in.”

If there is a lot of interest in these lectures, it is something that will continue to be offered in the future with more astronomers and more topics.

Curt Spivey, planetarium engineer and lecturer, reminds us that Ward Beecher wanted the planetarium to be a free educational resource for everyone in the area, and that is what it remains today.

“We are highlighting the past, celebrating the present, and going to the future,” said Curt.

Join us in celebrating the past fifty years of the Ward Beecher Planetarium and looking forward to the next fifty years, whatever that may bring. Visit their website for more information and a schedule of events.

Welcome Tiffany Wolbrecht to the Planetarium Crew!

Tiffany WolbrechtFresh out of grad school, Tiffany Wolbrecht is Youngstown State University’s new planetarium lecturer.

She has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in education from Edinboro University.

Tiffany became interested in this position after working at a smaller planetarium as a graduate assistant.

“I was a grad student out there and I started to work at the university’s planetarium there and I fell in love with it. I loved it. I’ve always loved astronomy,” said Tiffany.

The timing on this position couldn’t have been more perfect for her. The previous planetarium lecturer, Sharon Shanks, was retiring right when Tiffany was graduating and ready for the job. Tiffany was nervous but eager to start filling those shoes.

Right now she is working on becoming familiar with all of the current shows as well as incorporating her own ideas into them and creating new shows. She also wants to pull in an older audience by reaching out to high school groups.

“I want to nurture and grow the younger audience that we have, but I think there’s this misconception that it’s for elementary ed, you know; we get kindergarteners and third graders a lot but not very many above fifth grade,” said Tiffany.

With Tiffany’s goals and motivation for the planetarium, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for our STEM education in the Youngstown community.

“I’m happy to be here,” Tiffany said. “I’m really excited to utilize the planetarium for the university and for the older students, and I want to learn from what Sharon did and build on that and take us in new directions.”

When she’s not on the job, you can find Tiffany watching Star Trek or playing video games.