The History of the Berea College Planetarium

The Berea College Weatherford Planetarium was first set up in 1984 in the Hall Science building. The Weatherford Planetarium was managed and operated by the physics department at Berea College. It housed an analog, opto-mechanical Minolta MS-10 star projector supported by an ancillary system of 5 slide, video, and special effect projectors located around the dome. The dome of the planetarium was 30-feet in diameter, and it had seating for 51 people. The physics department provided shows at the planetarium for public, private, and home school groups as well as for other people studying astronomy, navigation, and space science.

The Weatherford Planetarium was capable of projecting more than 6000 stars at a time. The color characteristics of more than 20 of the brightest stars were recreated and individual projectors were used to project the planets. The system could adjust the projection to recreate the sky as viewed from any spot on the earth at any latitude and any time. In addition, the projector could show the daily motion of the sky from east to west, the long-term motion of the planets, and the 26000-year processional motion.

In August 2018, the Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health Building was completed and included a new Berea College Planetarium. The new dome was a projection dome with a digital system capable of projecting stars, planets, exoplanets, and nebulae. In addition to projecting the sky, the new planetarium has the capability of projecting different digital planetarium shows covering subjects like solar activity, comets and asteroids, the solar system, and black holes. These new shows are played for school group audiences as well as for the public on weekends. A presentation of the seasonal night sky by the planetarium operator typically follows these shows. The physics department still manages and operates the planetarium, and the planetarium associate is a labor position under the department typically held by a physics student.