The University of Louisville unveiled the Owsley Brown II Portable Planetarium at a news conference May 25. When inflated, the dome is 13 feet high and has an internal screen that measures 21 feet across.
The dome has been on the “wish list” of UofL’s College of Education and Human Development for years because administrators believed it an ideal way to generate interest in math and science topics, especially for K-12 students. The portable planetarium and its programs are part of the college’s Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium.
Blake Haselton, interim dean of the college, said the structure is aimed at engaging today’s students, who are more accustomed to visual learning than earlier generations.
“When you are inside the dome, it is a fully immersive experience,” Haselton said. “It gives you an idea of what it might feel like to be a comet flying through space or a cell traveling through the human bloodstream.”
The cost of launching the portable planetarium outreach program was nearly $325,000, which included buying a dome with advanced computing power and a projection system, a vehicle to transport it, licensing fees for shows and an additional employee.
Donors were The Ogle Foundation, Class Act Federal Credit Union and Christina Lee Brown, who made a gift in honor of her husband, the late Owsley Brown II.