New BOCES mobile planetarium offers students a clearer view of the galaxy


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  • Provided photo OU ES Model Schools staff developer sean banks demonstrates StarLab software during a recent workshop held at OU BOCES.




  • Constellations projected by StarLab.




— Beginning this school year, OU BOCES component school districts have access to two new Digital StarLab portable Planetarium Systems.

BOCES Instructional Support Services and Library Services recently acquired the systems to replace its classic StarLab system, which it had for many years.

“Digital StarLab is a major investment and one that would be challenging for individual districts," said Library Services Coordinator Diana Wendell, "so we feel that it is a great service that BOCES can provide.

The portable system uses an inflatable dome that comes with a MacBook laptop computer for generating the images. These are displayed by a projector through a fish eye lens with a 180-degree field of view with limited or no distortion.

Because images are produced from the computer, they can be displayed much more quickly than in the classic StarLab, which requires using physical cylinders.

The Starry Night software used with StarLab contains thousands of famous deep space objects with detailed descriptions from astronomical catalogs, including Messier and Caldwell catalogs, Herschel catalog of 400 deep sky objects, and corrected NGC/IC catalogs with over 13,000 deep sky objects.

Digital StarLab also provides the ability to display planets and all known solar system moons as quality textured, accurately placed 3D objects, and much more.

New NGSS correlated lesson plans are available with the Digital StarLab rental.

According to Amy Peluso Prasky, OU BOCES staff developer, “The Next Generation Science Standards call on teachers to engage students in the exploration of phenomena, including that of the solar system. StarLab is a perfect tool to help students explore topics such as prediction of motion, identification of elements of the solar system, patterns of motion, Earth's early formation, and relativity, all of which are emphasized throughout all levels of the new standards.”

Jevina Lackhan, BOCES Model Schools staff developer, experienced StarLab as a student.

“This portable planetarium was something that I looked forward to seeing annually, and learned so many things about the solar system that I still carry with me today," Lackhan said. "As an educator, I am so excited to see that local students will be able to experience the same wonders of our galaxy,” she said.

As with the classic StarLab, teachers will need to complete a workshop prior to their requesting StarLab. The first workshop was held on August 22. Another workshop will be offered in early October. Check on the OUB website Workshops link: https://www.mylearningplan.com/WebReg/Catalog.asp?D=10304 for details soon.

For more information about StarLab or other Library Services offerings, contact the Coordinator, Diana Wendell at diana.wendell@ouboces.org.



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