Enjoy an evening with the stars | NevadaAppeal.com

Enjoy an evening with the stars

Sally J. Taylor
Community/Features Editor
Fleischmann Planetarium & Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. Photo by Jean Dixon/University of Nevada, Reno.

At theaters this week you can catch stars such as Liam Neeson, Renee Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr. and Helen Mirren.

At the Star Theater in Reno, the stars are more enduring: Orion, Venus, Mars, Sol, and the star-filled supporting cast in the Milky Way Galaxy.

The Star Theater is in the Fleischmann Planetarium & Science Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Currently showing on the full-dome are “Solar Max,” “Black Holes,” “Legends of the Night Sky: Orion,” and the weekly feature Live SkyTonight Star Talks. It also features more earthly shows: “Amazon Journeys,” “Ice Worlds” and “The Secret of the Cardboard Rocket.”

Even Pink Floyd gets a turn on the dome in the digital light show “Dark Side of the Moon.”

“There has always been film and traditional star films in the Star Theater,” said Dan Ruby, associate director or the planetarium. “We still do traditional star shows where constellations are pointed out. Now we can do live shows.”

Large format, star films projected on the dome of the theater have been part of the planetarium since it opened in 1964. It was the first planetarium in the world to project full-dome movies: Time-lapse films of clouds and weather phenomena.

In 2003, the Star Theater added a state-of-the-art digital projector in addition to the large-format (70mm) film projector.

The new equipment includes a Spitz SciDome digital projector ” which produces high resolution and 3-D images.

The 60-seat theater has a surround-sound system and 30-foot diameter viewing dome for both the digital and film formats. As more features are available in the digital format and fewer on film, the theater will become completely digital.

The digital format has opened a whole new realm of entertainment ” with an educational slant ” to the Star Theater.

“The old shows projected what stars look like from earth from any given time,” Ruby said. “The new digital projectors allow us to show any time, even live, what anything in the universe looks like at any time. We can fly around the universe and see anything.”

The new technology produces a “full motion, immersive video since it’s all around you,” he said. “What it’s going to have is a richer more immersive experience. At least superficially, it’s more engaging than the old star shows.”

The Fleischmann Planetarium has the capability of also creating it’s own shows, and has done so for academic and art programs. But it takes a lot of staff hours to create original material, Ruby said. For now, the Star Theater relies on suppliers for its public shows.

The program of shows at the Star Theater changes quarterly. Planetarium staff review what’s available and incorporates information from visitors in deciding each package of programs.

“Large format doesn’t have to be star shows,” Ruby said. “Stars look great on a full dome, but other entertainment can be done on full dome.”

That includes music and laser shows.

The Star Theater is currently playing Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon,” a rock ‘n’ roll, full-dome digital light show in full-color animation.

“Light shows are relatively expected at planetariums,” Ruby said. “Almost everyone plays ‘Dark Side of the Moon.'”

For another take on star-studded entertainment, the Star Theater delivers.

– Contact Sally J. Taylor at staylor@nevadaappeal.com.

Getting there

Fleischmann Planetarium & Science Center is on the University of Nevada, Reno campus at 1650 N. Virginia St., corner of 16th Street, north of Lawlor Events Center. Free parking is available in the West Stadium Parking Complex, level 3, just east of the planetarium.


$6 adults, $4 children under 13 and seniors over 55. Double feature price: Second show half off.

Large-format Films:

Amazing Journeys

Feature film by Graphic Films Corporation and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Some of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles are tracked first hand as millions of creatures embark on extraordinary journeys of survival. Countless species sense “secret signals” that spark their migratory patterns, moving them to travel with uncanny directional accuracy on these miraculous journeys.

Showtimes: Daily at 1 and 5 p.m. Additional showing at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Solar Max

Feature film by John Weiley.

A breathtaking exploration into the awesome vastness and mysterious power of our closest star as never seen before. Thought-provoking material and jaw-dropping images and footage of the sun from international sites including the European Space Agency/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

Showtimes: Daily at 3 p.m.

Full-Dome Star Shows:

Ice Worlds

Digital show by E&S, the University of New Hampshire and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

In celebration of the International Polar Year, “Ice Worlds’ is a spectacular exploration of icebergs in the Arctic, massive glaciers, the Antarctic wilderness and more. Learn how science helps us discover environmental conditions that affect our future on Earth.

Showtimes: Daily at 4 p.m. plus noon on weekends, and at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Seasonal Stargazing included in the ticket price.

Black Holes

Digital star show by Clark Planetarium Productions.

Journey through one of the most mystifying, awe-inspiring phenomena in the universe in this extreme adventure to the limits of space and time.

Showtimes: Daily at 2 p.m. Additional showing at 6 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Seasonal Stargazing included in the ticket price.

Seasonal Stargazing

Digital star show by Loch Ness Productions.

Learn what’s up in the sky this season. Hop through constellations, learn the star names and look at the sky in a whole new way.

Showtimes: Seasonal Stargazing accompanies Ice Worlds and Black Holes.

The Secret of the

Cardboard Rocket

Digital star show by Clark Planetarium Productions.

Two young adventurers experience a breathtaking, up-close look at each of our solar system’s planets with guidance from the wise old Astronomy Book. Recommended for children in grades 1-4, but fun for all ages.

Showtimes: Saturdays at 11 a.m.

Legends of the Night Sky: Orion

Full-dome digital star show by Audio Visual Imagineering.

A light-hearted look at the ancient Greek mythology behind the winter constellations filled with funny and engaging characters to entertain and educate young children and their parents and guardians. Recommended for young children, but fun for all ages.

Showtimes: Sundays at 11 a.m.

Full-Dome Light Shows:

Dark Side of the Moon

Digital light show by Starlight Productions.

Pink Floyd’s legendary rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece is recreated in full-color animation for an unforgettable experience. Audience advisory: Adult subject matter.

Showtimes: Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m.

SkyTonight Star Talk

An immersive multimedia presentation.

What’s happening in the sky tonight? Question answered in an informal and entertaining presentation with state-of-the-art digital technology, followed by telescope viewing (weather permitting) at the observatory in Rancho San Rafael Park, courtesy of the Astronomical Society of Nevada.

Showtimes: First Friday of each month at 6 p.m.