Setting UP Your DIY Planetarium Projection System

If you have decided to opt for the Cylindrical Projection System, simply set up your projector onto a small box or table in the center of the dome. Make sure that all of your wires and plugs are tidied away so that they are in a safe area for students to walk around.

If you have opted for the Digital Projection System here is how to set it up:

Step 1. Go into the computer program of your choice and download it onto your laptop or PC.

Step 2. You will need a small table to place all of your equipment on, this will be your digital planetarium workstation. Place the table at one edge of the dome, you will need your projector and spherical mirror to be set up to be able to project on to as large an area of the dome ceiling as possible.

Step 3: Place your digital projector together with the spherical mirror onto the table. Place the spherical mirror to lie flat on the table at the back of the table with the dome section facing towards you and the audience and the back of the spherical mirror facing the edge of the dome. Set up the digital projector a couple of feet away to be sitting on the opposite side of the table to be able to project onto the spherical mirror. This is the tricky part! You will need to be able to position the digital projector to shine onto the mirror from a couple of feet away, have something to rest your digital projector on to get the angle right, you may need a couple of books or something sturdy to position the angle of the light coming out of the projector to shine directly onto the mirror. Once you have the digital projector shining directly towards the mirror play around with the focus and the zoom of your projector so that most of the mirror face is filled with light/your images.

Step 4: Hook up your laptop to the digital projector and open up your computer software. The computer software (either Stellarium or Celestia) will have an option in the menu for displaying the computer software in “Spherical distortion” mode. Click on this option. You will notice that in a planetarium dome the ceiling is curved, therefore flat images will appear distorted if you play movies that have not been “pre-warped”. Choosing the pre-warped option in your computer software problem will solve this problem for you. There are also a number of pre-warped movie clips on the web and can be found with a simple search if you want extra material.

Step 5: Configure your settings in your computer program to show your location and time. It is always good once you have set up your digital projection system to have a play around with playing movies and imagery onto the dome to familiarise yourself with your system. The more confident you become with using your setup, the easier it is to present shows in your dome in front of an audience. This is the same for people working in professional planetaria. Due to the nature of the technical equipment, if something can go wrong will go wrong! Don’t be disheartened if something happens during one of your shows, you can always entertain the audience with a story about the night sky, after all, this is what a planetarium is all about!

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