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Special Projects: Expanded View

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We've converted Expanded View from the digital planetarium format (fisheye projection) to flat projection. A flat projection version with English subtitles is also available.

The following resources are provided, free of charge, for classroom use.

Fisheye Projection
Flat Projection
Flat w/ Subtitles

Expanded View — Educator's Guide
Expanded View — Student Project

Expanded View—Featuring NASA's Great Observatories
AmyJo Proctor, Ron Proctor, and Dr. Stacy Palen
Ott Planetarium, Weber State University


People come to the planetarium to learn and to be entertained. At times program selection can seem like a tug o' war. In Expanded View we aimed to strike a balance between education and entertainment by featuring imagery from NASA's Great Observatories.

Expanded View introduces the electromagnetic spectrum and multi-wavelength observation with examples from Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra. Audiences learn how images are captured and what the colors tell us about composition of deep sky objects. Expanded View is intended to illustrate the importance of multi-wavelength observation by describing how NASAs Great Observatories work together.


We have been producing digital planetarium shows since 2005. We have been inspired by NASA's Great Observatories in so many ways, especially the Hubble Space Telescope. Many planetarium show producers try to reproduce Great Observatory observations with 3D models instead of using the actual image — these, while often lovely, fall flat because they are missing the scientific content and honesty that could be so inspiring to their audiences.

We have developed techniques to give these 2D images a 3D feel, transforming the planetarium dome into a window on 3D space. The main techniques in Expanded View either surround the audience with the image and make them feel part of it or to have the image appear to expand beyond the edges of the dome by use of perspective.

For a number of years, we have been doing live presentations about the Hubble Space Telescope and its discoveries. In these presentations we choose a few images and learn all that we can about the science behind them; we then present these to the audience in understandable terms. While the general public are fascinated by these images, their comparatively limited grasp scientific language sometimes hinders understanding. Our main goal in Expanded View is to present accurate information while minimizing the use of jargon.

Producing the Show

The most difficult part of any production is writing the script. The author must decide how best to communicate the "take away" message. Our message for Expanded View is that NASA's Great Observatories are critical components of our understanding of the universe.

The main theme of the show is that astronomers explore the sky using nearly all of the electromagnetic spectrum, not just the visible band. To illustrate this, we represented the electromagnetic spectrum as a continuum near the springline of the dome. Different bands of the spectrum are highlighted in relation to the visible band. The spectrum continuum is combined with 3D models of the space telescopes to highlight each instrument's capabilities.

Presenting the Show

Expanded View is shown to groups by reservation, field trips, introductory astronomy classes, and general audiences as part of our Science Saturdays program. We introduce the show as a glimpse into the mysteries of the universe through the eyes of NASA's Great Observatories.

Assessment of planetarium presentations can be difficult, since most audiences don't come to the planetarium expecting to take a test. We have found that the best way to asses our shows is to hold a brief discussion along with a question and answer period after the show. Often the audience asks for more; they want to see more images and learn more about them. To fulfill this desire, we call up the Hubble Space Telescope's web page and show them how to get to the image gallery then start looking at images. With each image, we discuss what the image is depicting then show them the link to the News Center where they can learn more about each of the objects — we go through a few of these explaining some of the terminology and making sure the audience is understanding by asking them questions and prompting them to explain to us what they are understanding using their newly gained knowledge.

We sometimes couple the show with a spectroscopy demonstration. Audience members are given diffraction grating glasses and are presented with a series of discharge lamps. Audiences learn that "spectral barcodes" can be used to figure out what distant objects are made of and are often able to identify several elements by spectrum when "quizzed" at the end of the demonstration.


The flat projection version of the show includes optional English subtitles.

The planetarium presents some unique challenges when serving audiences who are deaf or hard of hearing. The room must be very dark, making sign language interpretation difficult.

We currently have two strategies to serve deaf and hard of hearing populations in the planetarium. 1. An infrared camera and monitor are available for sign language interpreters to use during shows — this allows the deaf or hard of hearing audience member to see the interpreter without distracting the rest of the audience. 2. Subtitles can be projected over the lower portion of the main display with a second projector.

Educational Standards

Expanded View meets the following educational standards laid out by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Benchmarks for Science Literacy:

12th grade: Increasingly sophisticated technology is used to learn about the universe. Visual, radio, and X-ray telescopes collect information from across the entire spectrum of electromagnetic waves; computers handle data and complicated computations to interpret them; space probes send back data and materials from remote parts of the solar system; and accelerators give subatomic particles energies that simulate conditions in the stars and in the early history of the universe before stars formed. 4A/H3.

Beyond the Planetarium

Teachers are encouraged to continue a trajectory of discovery in the classroom with the provided supplemental packet and lesson suggestions.

Each student will be asked to choose a deep sky object to learn more about. The student will be asked to prepare a short presentation about the object for the class. Creativity is encouraged through the use of posters, drawings, or presentation software (Keynote, PowerPoint, etc).

Some suggested study questions:

• What do the colors in the image mean?
• Which wavelengths were used to photograph the image?
• Where is the object in the sky and can it be seen with a telescope?

General audiences are encouraged to engage in citizen science opportunities, such as Galaxy Zoo, GLOBE at Night, Stardust@Home, and others.


We feel this show is a great introduction to NASA's Great Observatories, and hope that audiences will feel inspired to learn more about astronomy, cosmology, and science in general. Expanded View is as much fun to show as it was to produce and we look forward to future projects featuring the great instruments of science.

Full Program Credits

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Ott Planetarium