The Casper Planetarium does more than show programs created by others. We create original programs in-house which are shown in planetariums all over the world, and much of that work is done by student interns under the direction of Planetarium Supervisor Michele Wistisen and Planetarium Technician Rod Kennedy.
For the past year, we have made four of our locally-created shows available through the International Planetarium Society and the Fulldome Database. The response has been substantial, with over 80 planetariums worldwide requesting copies. Casper Planetarium productions can now be seen on every continent except Antarctica.
Student interns at the Casper Planetarium include both high school and Casper College students. In addition to operating shows for the public and doing star talks about objects to observe in the night skies, they learn to create still and animated computer graphics and use them to illustrate astronomical concepts.
Because the Planetarium is owned and operated by Natrona County School District #1, some shows have been created to fill needs for specific topics that are part of the district’s science curriculum. An example of this is “4 Paths of the Sun,” which explains how the Sun’s position in the sky creates the four seasons. This show was originally created at the Casper Planetarium for local use only and contained several references to Casper. Rod Kennedy and Casper College intern Max Moore have worked together to revamp it to a more general format that can be shared with planetariums anywhere, and takes full advantage of the new 360-degree digital projectors.
Other shows grow from the interests of the interns. Ian Moffett was one such intern who helmed the creation of two shows that explored topics he was curious about. When he was still in high school, he directed “Exoplanets,” a program about the search for planets around distant stars. This show went on to win the Associazione dei Planetari Italiani’s “PLANiT” award for 2015.
Ian continued as an intern while he attended Casper College and in 2016 he helped create another show (along with fellow interns Zachary Whipps and Caemon Finley) called “Cosmology.” This show deals with how the universe was formed and how it is evolving. While other shows created at the Casper Planetarium have been narrated by local voices, this one was the first to seek an outside narrator. Internet celebrity and host of the popular YouTube education channel Vsauce Michael Stevens agreed to lend his voice to the project.
Show creation is an ongoing process. Interns graduate and move on to other schools or to work, new interns master the computer skills, and the projects continue. More shows originally created in older formats are being upgraded to digital technology, and several more original shows are in the pipeline.
So someday if you find yourself watching a planetarium show in Hong Kong, Capetown, New Delhi, Brasilia, or Los Angeles, don’t be surprised when the credits say “A Casper Planetarium Production.”