Newark students experience outer space via pop-up planetarium


Fifth graders at Newark’s KIPP New Jersey Team Academy traveled to outer space Wednesday thanks to the Newark Museum.

A Skylab, or portable inflatable dome, was erected in the school’s gym to create a planetarium experience. It’s about 20 feet in diameter and about 14 feet high. It seats approximately 25 students and takes about 30 minutes to set-up, start to finish. 

“The software that runs the system is called Digital Sky, that’s what actually creates the star field and is used to play back images and videos. It coordinates everything that happens during the show,” said Kevin Conad, manager and astronomer for the Alice and Leonard Dreyfuss Planetarium at Newark Musuem.

The students watched, “Constellations Tonight,” a program that included a general tour of the night sky, educating students about constellations and stars, and gave them a preview of the sky, as it would appear later in the year. They also learned how to find some the bright planets that will be visible.

The Newark Museum has been hosting the portable planetarium program for more than 30 years, according to Conad. The impetus for the program was that it was closing down for renovations, and it wanted to continue hosting classes for students.

“It’s fantastic for kids to come to a field trip, but kids can’t get to us with buses and whatnot, so it’s nice to be able to get out and come to the schools that can’t get to us,” said Conad.

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