Planetarium upgrades and a global look at the skies offer guests an out-of-this-world experience

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is pleased to announce exciting new updates to its space science program. With the support from a NASA-funded grant focused on sharing the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education with underserved communities and the newly remodeled planetarium opening this weekend, OMSI is poised to deliver stellar space science education to museum visitors.

In 2015, OMSI began upgrades through the NASA-funded Lenses on the Sky project. Lenses on the Sky creates diverse sky-watching experiences for youth across Oregon with a special emphasis on serving underserved Hispanic, African American, Native American and rural communities.

“Lenses on the Sky focuses on how people around the world and throughout time observe and understand the sky,” said Kyrie Kellett, senior learning and community engagement specialist at OMSI.

In addition to teaching guests about the tools humans have used to understand the sky in the past, the project highlights the relevance, value and scientific achievements of NASA missions, while inspiring them to learn more about space science, STEM careers and NASA.  

“This project was particularly significant for me because of the amazing team that came together to create this beautiful exhibit,” said Kellett. “So many people shared their stories, their lives, their insights, their traditions and their time to make this project happen.”

The OMSI team collaborated with Portland’s Rose City Astronomers, Rosa Parks Elementary School, Libraries of Eastern Oregon (LEO), and ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum to develop educational content and coordinate program delivery.

OMSI and its partners hosted several star-gazing events, called Star Parties, throughout Oregon. The team also created a space science guide aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for educators and designed several permanent exhibits in the planetarium hallway exposing guests to a multicultural and diverse understanding of the heavens.

OMSI’s 25-year-old planetarium received an overhaul from top to bottom: new seats and carpet, dome cleaning, a new laser system, and a new projection system.

“The public’s expectations are much higher now with their exposure to multimedia presentations, which is why planetariums like ours are changing to address those expectations,” said Jim Todd, the space science director at OMSI. “The new projection system will take us to a new level and allow us to be even more creative in the type and variety of programming we offer.”

The fully-renovated planetarium will enable Todd and his team to actively practice OMSI’s mission of inspiring curiosity in people of all ages and backgrounds through deeply immersive and engaging space science programming.

“We will continue to develop and deliver shows that we can tie in with current and upcoming events like eclipses, meteor showers, visible planets and more, “said Todd. “The universe will never look the same.”