Have you ever wanted to see the stars, but don’t have a telescope?
Love space and want to catch a glimpse up close?
Or maybe you’re just looking for a unique date idea?
The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) has just the place to do all of the above.
The Mallory Kountze Planetarium has been offering sky gazers a glimpse of the great unknown since 1987. A major component of the $14.5 million construction of the Durham Science Center, which was designed by HDR and built by Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc., the 50-seat planetarium has entertained and educated people of all ages for more than 30 years.
The highlight of the planetarium is the Spitz 512 Star Projector with 2300 accurately-drilled holes, each representing a particular star. The projector, which was built at a cost of $360,000 - an amount equaling just under $800,000 in 2020, shines light through the holes onto the 33-foot aluminum dome ceiling to cast a visual representation of the night sky.
"The star projector is really the primary teaching aide," Robert Schmidt, professor emeritus within UNO’s Department of Physics, wrote in "IDEAS," a publication released by OPPD. "The other equipment is used to enhance the images the star ball produces."
The planetarium underwent renovation in 2005 and was upgraded to a mostly full-dome video system that enables a big screen, immersive, virtual environment. It also allows for new programming to be downloaded from anywhere in the world in just minutes. It was also updated to double as a "smart classroom" for physics students at UNO.
Though the planetarium is currently closed for public showings due to COVID-19, it normally sees about 10,000 paid guests through public and private programs each year. Schools often bring buses of children from across Omaha, and sometimes as far away as Missouri, to check out the planetarium’s educational and entertaining shows.
"New program purchases are very expensive, so they happen only every few years," explains Krista Testin, planetarium operator and UNO physics instructor. "However, besides for the new rental programs, I have been able to work with planetariums from all over the world to bring some of their content to our planetarium."
Interested in visiting sometime? Visit the planetarium’s website to stay up to date on showings and prices.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.