The Highlands School District Digitalis Planetarium

Technical Information-

The diameter of the dome is 3.7 m at the zenith, and has a diameter of 6 m.It can seat approximately 40 adults or 60 small children.Entry and exit is through a 2 m zippered doorway, and is wheelchair accessible.It utilizes a full dome projection system, and has a full sky, or 180 degree field of view. It can:

  • demonstrate beginning through advanced astronomy concepts
  • simulate the sky from any point on Earth or from other planets and moons
  • move forward or backward in time
  • show annual motion , including retrograde planetary motion
  • simulate celestial phenomena such as transits, eclipses, and meteor showers
  • display orbits of the planets
  • display paths of the planets against the stars
  • display ecliptic, celestial equator, meridian, and the equatorial and azimuthal grids
  • show constellation outlines, names, and artwork
  • show constellations from multiple cultures
  • label the sky in different languages
  • play fulldome video shows with 5.1 channel surround sound support

Mrs. Carol Fraser and Mrs. Jennifer Kosior have:

  • conducted several training sessions with elementary, middle, and high school teachers;
  • presented the dome at the October Fairmount PTO meeting;
  • held the October Fairmount faculty meeting inside the planetarium, after which we demonstrated many of the features to the staff ;
  • conducted lessons for the kindergarten through fifth grade students of Fairmount;
  • presented to all Earth and Space Science students at Highlands High School;
  • presented the dome at the November School Board Meeting;
  • been invited by the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium to present the planetarium and lessons for over 2,000 students anticipated to attend the Exploration Day at Penn State on Saturday, April 17th. Exploration Day is a large, interactive K-12 science event sponsored by the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium.We hope to gain valuable contacts and information at this event.
  • established a relationship with Dr. Terry Trees, a member of the Pittsburgh Amateur Astronomers Association.He has shared a wealth of knowledge of astronomy, and will be a great asset to our ongoing education in this field.Our thanks go out to him for the great amount of time and effort he has already given to us.We hope to continue and expand this collaboration.

This, however, is only the very beginning. We would love to see every student in the Highlands School District instructed in the planetarium several times per year. We are currently creating a curriculum for a summer camp for elementary and possibly secondary students. The planetarium not only will help students to grasp astronomical concepts in a way that no book or video is able to do; it can be the beginning of a life-long love of science, and the spark that many of our students need to encourage other endeavors in their education and career paths. The Highlands School District has a great asset that no other district in our area can claim.

"We are very excited to offer this new piece of science technology to the students of the Highlands School District. This technology, which was purchased with PA-Pact money (The state ACT tax money that was collected and given to districts that applied), will allow students to engage in a wonderful learning experience that will focus on the solar system and the world around us. We look forward to learning and sharing together."

~Charlie Mort
Fairmount Elementary School
Science Facilitator K-5