Louisiana Art & Science Museum. Photo courtesy LASM.

Out of this world: LASM finishes updates to the Pennington Planetarium

Good news! If you took the doctor’s advice and wore protective eyewear during last week’s solar eclipse, your still-sharp eyesight can see the difference in Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s Pennington Planetarium’s updated picture. That’s right–the museum has finally finished much-needed updates to the planetarium’s projector system. To celebrate, the museum is hosting a Grand Reopening Film Festival this Saturday and Sunday, September 2 and 3. Jay Lamm, the planetarium’s production technician, gave us the scoop on the new projectors and just what you can see at this weekend’s festival.

The planetarium used to have “two Sony projectors, with bulbs on the inside,” says Lamm. The technology was very similar to what you’d find in old “boob tube” televisions. “This provided good quality film,” says Lamm, “but [the bulbs] began to degrade after about seven months. They’d lose brightness and contrast.” In other words, the picture is crisp on day one, but, by the end of the seventh month, the picture is blurry and dull.

Lamm says that the planetarium now utilizes “four projectors, two in the front [of the theater] and two in the back,” and delivers a better picture and more immersive experience. These new projectors also use laser technology, much like what is used in modern flat-screen televisions. Lamm says this “doubles the contrast” as well as gives the planetarium “thousands of hours of viewing time” between updates and replacements. Efficiency is great, but deeper blacks, more vibrant colors and an ultra-realistic picture make the films in the planetarium look even better.

The museum is celebrating these updates with a weekend-long film festival. The Andy Serkis-narrated We Are Stars is showing as part of the festival. You can find the full lineup of films and showtimes on the museum’s website. Purchase tickets for films at the museum’s front desk. If you visit on Sunday, September 3, admission to the museum is free as part of First Free Sunday, and planetarium films have a reduced ticket rate of $6.