OGDEN, Utah – For bringing heavenly images of the Hubble Space Telescope down to earth, NASA has picked Weber State University’s Ott Planetarium as top in the nation with a Gold Star distinction.
The Top Stars contest was launched to honor the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA invited educators to submit their best examples of using the Hubble telescope in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
The year-long contest, sponsored by NASA and conducted by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in cooperation with the Space Telescope Science Institute, just announced WSU’s Ott Planetarium as one of 10 Gold-Star winners.
Ott Planetarium specialist AmyJo Proctor created the award-winning planetarium show called “Expanded View.” The 23-minute program explores some of the most beautiful deep-space objects through the eyes of the Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra space telescopes.
Proctor, along with the planetarium staff, has developed a technique to take a 2-D telescopic image and bend it around the planetarium to create a 3-D feel, which transforms the dome into a 3-D window on space.
“We created the 3-D effect not to just make it more interesting but also to provide an awe-inspiring, scientifically honest view of the universe that was easily accessible to school-aged students,” Proctor said.
The project, which was produced in a period of four months in late June 2009, is available for viewing during public or private showings at the Ott Planetarium on WSU’s Ogden campus. Students of the stars can also watch the program, without the 3-D effect, online at weber.edu/planetarium/productions. WSU creators will also, eventually, present their work to educators around the country via satellite on NASA’s Digital Learning Network.
The planetarium recently received funding that will help ensure the continued creation of programming for the public. Betty Ott, widow of the late Layton P. Ott for whom the planetarium is named, pledged $1 million to the planetarium, which will be given over the course of 10 years.
“The Ott family has made it possible for us to continue building our skills, talents and capabilities,” planetarium director Stacy Palen said. “Their generous donation allows us to continue our work, bringing science to the public and to children of all ages in the most accurate, beautiful and thought-provoking way.”
The planetarium has already sold the Expanded View production to a handful of other planetariums throughout the country, and hopes this award will generate additional awareness and interest.
Ott Planetairum producers have created seven shows, in addition to “Expanded View,” specifically designed to meet national public education core requirements in science for students in grades K-12.
Palen said the NASA award and the Ott donation are particularly exciting as public acknowledgement that the planetarium is creating world-class educational content.
For more information about the Ott Planetarium or the Top Stars contest, visit weber.edu/planetarium and topstars.strategies.org.