Das Instrument darf nur von kompetentem und ausgebildeten Fachpersonal geöffnet werden…

The instrument must be operated only by competent and trained personnel…


Operating Instructions, S1015 Planetarium Projector

Power up

To avoid damage, the sound board must be on when the stack in the back room is turned on or off.

  1. Before opening the outer door of the planetarium, verify that a breeze is coming out between the door and its frame. Turn the top of the key toward the dome to open the door. This leaves the door so that it is locked from the outside. Lock in the opposite direction.

  2. Turn on the entrance vestubule light (switch on your right) and the house lights (switch to left of video projector monitor). If the planetarium is overheated, open all four doors. Rubber door wedges should be on shelf in back room. Dan Gillespie (facilities director) is in charge of temperature; the heat-distribution equipment is reached through the Lower Main gallery. The planetarium key also opens the closet containing the dustpans; it faces the window in the Voter Gallery.

  3. Turn on the red light in the exit vestibule (switch to right of door). Make sure the exit is locked. For small groups, put the “WORKSHOPS—RESTROOMS—EXIT” in the vestibule so people know which door leads out to Traster. For big groups, put it just outside the door so that peoplpe won’t turn right into Troster and bump into incoming people. Close the black velvet curtain in front of the exit.

  4. The small colored donor plaques on the seats keep falling off. Straighten the crooked ones; put the fallen ones them in the old bulk film container in the back room, attached to the inside of the door. The armrests fall off too. Pop them back on, and hit them a few times with the carpet-installers hammer (rubber on one side, plastic on the other) on the shelf with the tools, behind the rack of screwdrivers.

  5. Set the telephone so it doesn’t ring during a show. (Instructions on phone?)

  6. Turn on the back room lights (switch to left of door). Dome lights to left of ladder should be off (counterclockwise). The Vector box has the signs that slide into the display of the current day’s shows at the entrance to Troster.

  7. If the sound board is off and the stack of seven sound units in right rear is on, turn off the stack from bottom to top (seven separate power switches). This combination should never happen.

  8. Sound board power switch is at upper right of board. Two gray output sliders up to heavy line.

  9. In the back room, turn on the stack from top to bottom (seven separate power switches).

  10. Cassette tape player is below sound board; red power switch is on upper left.

  11. Turn on electronics from top to bottom: VCR, video projector (power switch on left; monitor select line 1; blue mode select always bb) and its monitor, CD player (power switch on left), and the two DVD players (power switch in upper left corner). The DVD power light will turn from yellow (standby) to green (on).

  12. Three red darkroom lights on stalks (one large, two small) have controls on base. The stalk near the video monitor has red and white lights: turn the control farther. Remove the Windows XP screen filter for more light.

  13. To the left of the Spice computer keyboard, turn on the power switch for the computer, the computer’s red stalk light, special effects, orrery, and cove lights. The C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT file will launch C:\SPICE3\SPICE, which will display line 1 of an empty program. If the screen remains blank, turn up the contrast and brightness controls at the bottom of the monitor.

  14. CON LO to turn on special effects lights. CON HI does nothing.

  15. Run TEST.CUE on the Spice computer; see instructions below. Test the Spice remote control by stepping into one comment at the start of the .CUE file. When the slew (Projector R, lines 53–55) and zoom (Projector T, lines 56–58) light up, set them up for their first use of the day. Make sure the unlabled switch to the left of the slew Manual/Auto switch is up. For Larry, Cat in Space (lines 263–270 in DVDLARRY.CUE), slew hard right, halfway up dome, speed 9:30 or 10:00, back to automatic. For MarsQuest, zoom small, speed 2:00. For Our Place in Space, zoom large, speed 5:00.

  16. Windows XP computer: screen power button is the large one at bottom center of screen. Computer power button is the large one the right side of the front; then control-alt-delete. The Firefox and Internet Explorer web browsers have bookmarks to “Mark Meretzky’s Planetarium Page”. If the Internet connection is down, reset the cable modem.
    Start → Settings → Control Panel → Network Connections → Local Area Connection → Enable.
    Get the correct time from the Internet:
    Time → Internet Time → Update Now
    See if the red digital clock is accurate.

  17. Zeiss M1015 on/off switch at bottom front of right Zeiss control panel. Vertical is off; turn 90° clockwise to turn on. See orienting below. Left knob in Windows XP mousepad turns on the Zeiss dashboard lights; right knob turns on the white light in the mouse pad. Climb up and read the year from the odometer.

Power down

To avoid damage, turn off the stack in the back room before the sound board. Leave the Zeiss power on for a four-minute cool-off after turning off all its lamps.

  1. If the planetarium will next be used for a movie, hunker the Zeiss down. Otherwise, leave it stationary in the following configuration. In the Windows XP computer mousepad, turn off the Zeiss dashboard lights and white mousepad light. Leave the Zeiss power on for five-minute cool-off.

  2. Orrery: leave observer on North (toggle up), center on Heliocentric (up). Brightness and speed all the way off (counterclockwise). Sun on (up); moon and planets off (down). Power off (down).

  3. Slew speed 9:30, zoom speed 5:00, both on automatic. The unlabled switch to the left of the slew Manual/Auto switch should be up. Slew power off.

  4. Windows XP computer: Start → Shut Down… → Shut Down. Turn off the screen. It is not necessary to turn off the iMicro.

  5. Turn off wireless mike and leave it on the console below the orrery, not on the toip of the console where it could get stolen. Let its wires hang straight. It has a 9 volt rechargeable battery. The bank of batteries is in the back room, on the wooden countertop near the leftmost of the three openings into the planetarium proper.

  6. Red laser pointer in black case, in in “flashlight house” to right of Spice computer. Flashlights on hook to right of Spice monitor, or in “flashlight house”. Leave remote control (for Friendly Stars) on its controller.

  7. Rewind cassette tape. Replace tapes, DVD’s, and CD’s. Leave animations DVD in the aninimations DVD player.

  8. Video projector: monitor select line 1, input select line 1 (for show DVD for following day’s Friendly Stars). Turn up brightness and contrast.

  9. Turn off DLP projector; leave it unocculted (SFX B7).

  10. Move all sound board sliders all the way down. Then turn off back room stack from bottom to top. Dome lights to left of ladder should be off (counterclockwise). Turn off back room light. Lock back room door unless planetarium will next be used for a movie.

  11. Make sure the iMicro “COMPUTER” cable is plugged back into one of the LINE IN-1 jacks in the back of the video projector; see DVD, below. Unplug VCR from video projector.

  12. Turn off the two DVD players, CD player, video projector and its monitor, VCR, cassette player, and sound board. DVD power light will turn from green (on) to yellow (standby) but will not turn off. Move sound board sliders all the way down.

  13. Special effects knobs off (counterclockwise). CON LO to dim down right dashboard lights. control-n to reposition slide projectors. Turn off Spice computer with switch to left of its keyboard. It is not necessary to quit the Sky-Skan program (although you can, by pressing escape and then control-q).

  14. Three cove lights all the way off (counterclockwise).

  15. Three red lights on stalks off.

  16. Power off Zeiss after 4-minute cool-off.

  17. Make sure the exit door is locked. Stick wooden wedge onto door, guard’s light on door frame, turn off red light, close velvet curtain. Turn off yellow front vestibule light. Ladder behind black curtain behind console. House lights off. Close front door, make sure it locks. (If it doesn’t, lock it while pressing in the latches. Then close it again.) Sign out in Trevor Mansion. Email anomalies to planetarium staff.

Console overview

  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!  

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

To show the audience the greatest variety of scenery, we create the illusion that we are facing south. If we were facing north, all we would see from Yonkers would be the same circumpolar constellations going around and around the North Star. (In reality the audience is facing east, away from the Palisades.) Standing at the console in fall and winter, the Zeiss will block your view of the Evening Star(s).

left   center   right
video projector
VCR & phone cove
Windows XP

screen &
orrery special effects
stepper board

screen &
red digital
Spice power
iMicro atop
XP computer
  pens &
  thyme &

Zeiss M101–5 Controls

The M101–5 is the model in use in the 15-meter dome at the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

Top row of buttons above Zeiss motion control

On/off switch at bottom front of right control panel; let it cool off for five minutes before powering off.

equator and poles
ecliptic (poles in Draco and Dorado)
azimuth circle around zenith
time and hour circle
around north pole
precession scale,
does nothing
galactic poles in Coma Berenices and Sculptor
cardinal points
vertical elevation (a movable meridian)

ME: takes 12 volt, 25 watt bulb; push in and twist. If broken, use the VE (“Vertical Elevation”) scale instead. October 31, 2006: digital multimeter shows that voltage is a bit high in meridian and planets.

EQ: The celestial north pole is at the tip of the arrowhead, not the tip of the line. The arrow points towards 18h on the celestial equator.

EC: The ecliptic has a 28-day February.

AS: to be used in conjunction with the Vertical Elevation. Was blocked by Styrofoam ball for Earth & Sky.

PG: The north galactic pole has its own projector. The south pole projector is missing.

CA: In February 2008, Marc removed a tube which apparently only allows for alignment with a type of bulb which is no longer available. Cardinal points much improved.

Zeiss brightness and motion

Each knob is below its label.

left: brightness right: motion (except CO and UN)
max 2½ revolutions
of zodiac
latitude (clockwise up)
move the
vertical elevation
horizon panorama
lunar (covered)
stray light
(pollution, now Styrofoam ball)
Milky Way
horizon glow east
blue lights
(point up)
planets (Mercury through Saturn)
fixed stars
(more than 5,000)
universal projector
horizon glow west
white lights
(point down)

PR: maximum 2½ rotations.

PL Marc put a bulb in the Mars projector on November 22, 2006. It’s not exactly what’s supposed to be in there, and with the four 24V 12W bulbs in the circuit (if he understands elementary electrical theory properly) it burns brighter than normal. This means that its life will be shortened considerably, but there is no fire or overload hazard. It wouldn’t work to put such bulbs in all the planet projectors—they’d burn out in a trice. He marked what he thinks should be the maximum level on the PL dimmer with two little mounds of glow-in-the-dark tape. It might not immediately blow if it goes higher, but it’s something like an exponential relationship. So: tread carefully.

SU turns on the Sun and Gegenschein. The angular diameter of the Sun and Moon is twice as big as it really is.

The Gegenschein is produced by a special projector pointing opposite the Sun. Originally Marc thought it was somehow picked off from the Sun projector’s lamp. Rebecca and Marc took apart some of this projector, but Marc could see that we have no spares of this bulb. It’s completely unlike anything in the Zeiss tool box. He couldn’t even figure out how to get it apart. It’s probably best done as part of a service call, which might happen sometime in 2008.

  STARVELING [as Moonshine].
This lanthorn doth the horned moon present;
Myself the man i’ the moon do seem to be.

—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream V, i, 236–237

MO turns on the Moon.

MW turns on the Milky Way if FS is also on. The films which project the Milky Way have spots which are to be lined up with various nearby bright stars, and then blacked out. Here they are from left to right, facing toward the center of each starball. Galactic north is at the top. The N and S tell which galactic hemisphere contains the star.

When Marc installed the projectors, he tried following those markers and ended up with gaps even worse than the present ones in Gemini and Sagittarius.

FS turns on the stars, including Sirius which has its own projector on the south star ball. Variables such as Algol and Mira are shown a maximum brightness. It also turns on non-stellar objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy and the Large Magellanic Cloud (between Dorado and Mensa). I can’t see the Small Magellanic Cloud (in Tucana).

PR: turn precession clockwise to make Mintaka ( منطقة , δ Orionis, right star in the belt) go clockwise along the equator to 05h 32m 00.4s.

LA: turn latitude counterclockwise to lower the stars in front of you (increasing your latitude, when facing south); we do this in Our Place in Space.

DI: turn diurnal counterclockwise to move time forward. In other words, turn it left to make the stars go right. (On the rare occasions when the audience is facing north, turn it right to make the stars go right.) Keep the stars in continuous, slight diurnal motion to make them twinkle slightly; halt this for “Twinkle, Twinkle” in Friendly Stars and “StarDraw” in Our Place in Space Stars.

To show why the stars twinkle, Marc waves a beat-up sheet of plastic in front of the projected stars. He made things like big tennis raquets to hold in front of the stars, one “laminar” and one “turbulent.” It would work better with a pinpoint-bright starfield, but it’s pretty good anyway. Older Zeiss projectors had built-in scintillation, but they gave it up for a while, and reintroduced it in the newer projectors.

AZ: turn azimuth clockwise to make the stars go counterclockwise along the horizon.

HP HP PA PC: lunar horizon panorama, used in Larry, Cat in Space, Earth & Sky, and Holiday Rocket.

There are two horizon panoramas. The lunar one looks okay, the other one is murky and greenish. The mechanism is also a little awkward; they don’t switch smoothly. Marc doesn’t believe it has ever been used very much.

There is actually a set of Yonkers panorama images in the slide file (except you can’t see the Empire State Building). But Marc tried them years ago and it looked poor; that’s why they’re in the slide file and not in the projectors. The Hayden’s horizon was more stylized. It’s something that Marc has toyed with, but never got satisfactory results. There are pans of Manhattan (used in Earth & Sky) lower Manhattan pre-9/11, lots of different landscapes.

SY: used in Earth & Sky.

HE, HW: The horizon glows are the little “pie-plates” on the ends of the Zeiss’s support arms. If out of whack, they are easy to tighten—just a screw in the bottom—but be careful of bumping into them if you climb up on the Zeiss. The glow is so broad (no strongly bright center) that we don’t bother tweaking them seasonally. Before a sunset, turn up HW to full volume—it can’t be seen against the background of the sky. Keep dimming it down gradually after the sunset clounds (LoCate 8 STEP: F) have disappeared. This gives you control of the pace of the sunset, allowing you to lengthen it.

Orient the Zeiss M101–5

  While Gene worked in the office, Carolyn climbed to the upper floor of the dome and pulled a plastic sheet off the telescope (the dome leaked).  

—Richard Preston, First Light, p. 83, describing the Shoemakers on Mount Palomar

Emergency: when rain enters the dome, minimize the Zeiss footprint by pointing one arm straight up. Place 6h or 18h on the meridian, then LA motion until the north pole of the ecliptic (in Draco) is at the zenith, ecliptic at the horizon. The white “cap” on the outside of the dome (October 23, 2008) is a stopgap sealant which will eventually be covered by a new exterior layer. That work may have to wait until at least 2009.

Within the Solar System

  But I am constant as the Northern Star,
Of whose true-fixed and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumber’d sparks,
They are all fire and every one doth shine;
But there’s but one in all doth hold his place.

—William Shakespeare, Julius Cæsar III, i, 60–65

  Some say he bid his Angels turn ascanse
The Poles of Earth twice ten degrees and more
From the Sun’s Axle; they with labour push’d
Oblique the Centric Globe:

—John Milton, Paradise Lost X 668–671
  1. Precession. Mintaka ( منطقة, δ Orionis, right star in the belt) is at Right Ascension 05h 32m 00.4s. Turn on fixed stars (FS) and equator (EQ); use PR to get Mintaka to the right place. See the Präzession 1900 label near the odometer.

  2. Azimuth. The audience conventionally faces south, except in Daughter of the Stars, Follow the Drinking Gourd, and A River Through Time. Turn on the meridian (M) and adjust azimuth (AZ) if necessary to center the north end of the meridian line (not the letter N) on the white reflective rectangle in the rear cove. You can also get the left edge of the meridian dots flush with the left edge of the projector hole in the dome. Turn AZ right to move left. Adjust the azimuth when you have moved the Zeiss sun to coincide with the video sun in the setup for Friendly Stars. Other norths: Magnetic north is 13° 19′ west of true north at the planetarium. Manhattan north (the direction of the avenues) is 28.9° east of true north (Manhattanhenge). Other horizontals: The diabase sill of the Palisades dips 15° to the northwest.

  3. Latitude. Based on the arguments in the URL of this link, the center of the planetarium dome is at latitude 40° 57′ 15″ North. Turn on meridian (ME) and equator and poles (EQ), adjust latitude (LA) if necessary to get the celestial north pole at 40° 57′ 15″ above the north horizon point behind you, or to get the celestial equator at the complementary angle (49° 2′ 45″) above the south horizon point in front of you. This will have to be reset after the latitude motion in Our Place in Space.

  4. Annual motion. Get the date, if you don’t already know it, from the screen of the Spice computer. Before performing the first annual motion of the day, bring a metal stool over to the Zeiss and read the year on the the four-digit odometer at the base of the north arm. (It begins to advance to the next year during May of the previous year.) Turn on the ecliptic (EC), sun (SU), and moon (MO); turn AN counterclockwise to move forward in time, clockwise to move back.

  5. Diurnal motion. Planetarium longitude is 73° 53′ 48″ West. Our time zone is therefore Eastern Standard Time, whose standard meridian is 75° West. EST is five hours later than Universal Time (75° ÷ 15° = 5); Eastern Daylight Time is only four hours later. Our local mean time is 4 minutes, 24.8 seconds ahead of Eastern Standard Time (1° 6′ 12″ ÷ (15° per hour)). The diurnal knob (DI) is backwards (if south is in front): turn it left (counterclockwise) to move the sky right (forward in time). To position the sun at high noon, turn on the meridian (ME). To position the sky for a given hour on the current date, get the local sidereal time from Mark Meretzky\sidereal.celx or The Sky (data → site information → date and time) on the XP desktop. Then diurnally move until this point on the equator is on the meridian.

  6. Based on this link, planetarium altitude is 90 feet above sea level.

Bigger than the Solar System, smaller than the Galaxy

  1. The Solar System is in the Local Interstellar Cloud or “Local Fluff”, which is in the Local Bubble blown out by Geminga (RA 06h 33m, Dec 17° 46′ N) in Gemini. The fluff was formed where the Local Bubble and and the Loop I Bubble met. Three bubbles abut the Local Bubble. Loop I is 113° in diameter and is centered on lII = 330° bII = 19.5°. Loop II is 92° in diameter and is centered at lII = 100° bII= –30°. Loop III is 71° in diameter and is centered near the north celestial pole at lII = 124° bII= 11.5°.

  2. Moving Groups. The Sun belongs to the Local Association, a.k.a. the Pleiades Moving Group, and is in the outskirts of the Ursa Major Moving Group.

  3. The solar apex, towards which the Sun is heading at 20 km/sec (12 miles/sec) relative to the nearby stars, is at RA 18h 03m, Dec +30° 00′ in Hercules southest of Vega. The antapex is therefore near Sirius. Nearby stars in the direction of Vega seem to be spreading out from Vega; nearby stars in the direction of Sirius seem to be converging on Sirius.

  4. Galactic navigation. Press PG to see the galactic poles in Coma Berenices and Sculptor. The galactic center (Sagittarius A*) is at RA 17h 46m, Dec –29° 00′ in Sagittarius (see map). The direction of the sun’s revolution around the center is toward Cygnus, at 217 km/sec (1 light year/1400 years). When viewed from above the north galactic pole, looking down, the sun revolves clockwise and the galaxy’s arms point counterclockwise. Surprisingly, the plastic celestial sphere near the console does not show the Milky Way.

Beyond the Mily Way

  1. The other spiral galaxies in the Local Group are Andromeda at RA 0h 42m 44.3s Dec +41° 16′ 9″, distance 2.54 million light years; and Triangulum at RA 1h 33m 50.9s Dec +30° 39′ 36″, distance 2.81 million light years. Andromeda and the Milky Way rotate in opposite directions as a result of the conservation of angular momentum. The Milky Way is approaching Andromeda at 100 km/sec, and the rotation of our galaxy currently gives us extra speed in this direction.

  2. The closest group to our Local Group is the IC 342/Maffei Group, concentrated around IC 342 at RA 3h 46m 48.5s Dec +68° 05′ 46″, distance 10.7 million light years in Camelopardalis, and Maffei 1 at at RA 2h 36m 35.4s Dec +59° 39′ 19″, distance 8.8 million light years in Cassiopeia.

  3. The disk of the Virgo Supercluster lies in the supergalactic plane. Its north pole is at RA 18h 55m, Dec +15° 43′ near ζ Aquilae. Let’s assume that M87 marks the center of the supercluster at RA 12h 31m Dec 12° 24′, 55 million light years away, halfway between Vindemiatrix and Denebola. Gérard de Vaucouleurs identified the Virgo Supercluster.

  4. Neighboring superclusters in the supergalactic plane are Hydra-Centaurus, Pavo-Indus, and Perseus-Pisces. The plane also contains the Great Attractor (250 million light years away in Hydra and Centaurus) and the Shapley Concentration (centered at A3558: RA 13h 28m, Dec –31° 30′). The plane separates the Northern and Southern Local Supervoids. The Northern Local Supervoid is surrounded by the Virgo, Coma, and Hercules superclusters.

  5. The Great Wall is in Coma Berenices and Hercules.

  6. With respect to the cosmic microwave background, we are moving 369 k/sec towards RA 11h 12m, Dec –7° 13′. This point is below β Virginis, not too far from the center of the supercluster in ¶ 2.

Universal Projector

The Universal projector is the black flying saucer above the cove light controls. The light can be regulated by the Zeiss UN knob or blocked by a shutter in the projector. Each slide can be rotated. The projector does not use normal slides. It has weird round transparencies—Marc thinks on film, maybe on glass. There is lith film and lith developer up in the studio, but please don’t take apart the projector to get a look.

The slides are numbered counterclockwise when viewed from above. Use #10, instead of the hand-held red laser, to get a steady pointer or to free your hands for other tasks. Orion is useful; the Zodiac constellations are redundant.

  1. Man wielding sickle. Perhaps Boötes, who pleased Ceres by inventing the plough.
  2. Leo the Lion
  3. Aquarius
  4. snake in Garden of Eden
  5. crow and woman
  6. Orion wielding club and lion skin.
  7. camel
  8. Draco the Dragon
  9. Gemini?
  10. classic planetarium arrow pointer
  11. Ursa Minor, looks like skunk
  12. Ursa Major, long tail
  13. Cassiopeia made of five reindeer facing left
  14. crow’s foot
  15. Big Dipper made of seven bulls facing right
  16. stool? flying carpet?
  17. sick octopus with thermometer
  18. Big Dipper as wagon
  19. ax head
  20. Egyptian boat

The Universal projector bulb blew on January 19, 2008. The spare bulbs have tiny flanges on them which prevent their being seated properly. The flanges have to be cut off, which is hard to do without breaking the bulb.

Zeiss starball lamp


Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.


—Arthur C. Clarke, The Nine Billion Names of God

Instructions for replacing the bulb are in the old “troubleshooting” book. To remove the old bulb, turn it counterclockwise and hold it by the metal part, not the glass. Get a new bulb from the DHL carton that says “Star bulbs for Zeiss”. Each bulb is in a white box labelled “24 V 250 W — E40 mit 8mm Kolben klar [clear bulb] –027”. Hold the new bulb by the foam padding that came in the box so your fingers don’t touch the glass. Mark replaced the lamp in the south ball on February 19, 2006. Marc replaced the north lamp on November 4, 2007.

Loose plate

On December 21, 2006, Marc noticed during a show that whenever the Zeiss spun in latitude motion, there was a heavy CLUNK coming from the machine. Nothing seemed to be broken, or hanging, there was nothing on the stage below the machine…and then, when he tried to turn on the Zeiss Zodiac, Nothing Happened.

Great, he thought, a bulb blew, and now the chunks of the bulb are clunking around inside the machine. Still, that clunking was pretty loud…

After the show he climbed up on the Zeiss and realized that he had never changed the bulb before and didn’t know how to do it. Do you remove a lens? No…and then he looked into the lenses and realized that he could see the constellation outlines, but that they weren’t visible on the dome.

After a few minutes’ confusion, he realized that the access for the constellation bulb is in the base of the starball next to it. He opened the starball and discovered that the plate holding the bulb had slipped out of its sleeve. It’s a heavy piece of steel, as big as a saucer; that’s what was so obviously knocking around inside the machine as it spun. The bulb was fine.

And here’s the fun part. The reason it was rattling around was that the screws had been removed. All four of them. Aargh. I would guess this was done because the old lightshields over the cooling fans were taller and probably made removing the screws a pain, and because the mounting plate fits pretty snugly in place and somebody figured leaving the screws off wouldn’t be a problem. The screws have been replaced.

Zeiss planet cages

I replaced the Osram 64225 bulbs for Saturn and Mars on May 20, 2006. Saturn was missing one of its four allen wrench bolts. Hochwertigen Quarzglaskolben—nich mit bloßen Fingern berühren. High quality glass bulbs—do not touch with bare fingers.

Saturn moves so slowly that the contact surfaces spend more time than normal exposed to the air. Remember that the planet projectors have pickups like blunt brass pins which move around the brass slip rings. Although the pin is always in contact with the slip ring, the surface of the slip ring is larger in area and is not always completely in contact with the pin. Because Saturn moves so slowly, there is more time for the exposed surfaces of the slip ring to tarnish. Something similar may be why the VE projector flickers (although there could also be flatness irregularities on that set of slip rings). That set of rings is so low on the machine, coupled to the fact that they always face up, that they collect more gunk and moisture. We clean them with felt paper and WD-40, but some probably need some real brass polish (Brasso).

Procedure for fixing Zeiss when motions go wacky

  1. Leave Zeiss on. Make sure all dimmers and knobs are set at console.
  2. Gently feel to see if one of the Zeiss breakers are tripped.
  3. Gently flip breaker back into the “on” position.

If the above doesn’t work, turn off console and main power and flip breaker. Repeat steps 1, 2, 3.

Zeiss (and other) problems


Any large system is going to be operating most of the time in failure mode. What the system is supposed to be doing when everything is working well is really beside the point because that happy state is never achieved in real life. The truly pertinent question is: How well does it work when its components aren’t working well? How does it fail? How well does it function in failure mode?


—John Gall, Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail (1975), pp. 91–92

A service call from Zeiss costs $2500 – $3500 and takes weeks to arrange. The south starbulb blew on February 19, 2006; the north on November 4, 2007. It usually happens when you turn on the machine in the morning.

  1. The odometer begins to change to the new year in May of the previous year.
  2. Near the odometer, the Zeiss can now be labeled for Präzession 2000 instead of 1900.
  3. How do we know the gap is correctly fixed between the northern and southern halves of the Milky Way in Sagittarius? The gap was perpendicular to the plane of the galaxy.
  4. There is a dark area to the right of Orion.
  5. The slide of Capricornus in the Zodiac is weak. The constellations are various brightnesses; Marc doesn’t know why. Probably the plates with the outlines on them were not made to exactly the same tolerances, or some have darkened with age.
  6. Latitude worm gear, the Moon occulting disk, the Sun occulting disk and aurole, the lunar surface pan alignment.
  7. Jupiter has been dim (April, 2007). The bulb was fine: the dolls-eye-like occulting gizmo inside may have been partially blocking the bulb. If it recurs, Marc will have to open the projector and fiddle with the occulter.
  8. The Saturn bulb alignment was off. Realigned—it’s visible again. (June 26, 2008)
  9. The south railing is held on by only one bolt. The metal plate needs to be redrilled (a nontrivial task).
  10. The cover for the Saturn lamp is held on by only three bolts, not four.
  11. The Gegenschein does not light up.
  12. No All-Sky Projector 1 (at the rear of the theatre, located S, projecting N) as of November 16, 2007.
  13. Projectors U and V are loud.


  1. Front desk
  2. Back desk
  3. Marc Taylor
  4. Planetarium theater
  5. Vinny Corda, IT

To call a local number, dial 9 to get a dial tone, and then the seven-digit number. To call outside the immediate area (lower Westchester), dial 9 to get a dial tone, dial the number, then enter the last four digits of your social security number. The museum itself is (914) 963-4550. The museum phone system is managed by Broadview Communications.

DVD player: Pioneer DVD-V7400

Power switch is on upper left of box; light will turn from yellow (standby) to green (on). It has a RS232-C port. To use it, there would need to be an interface between the DVD player and the rest of the automation system. It’s a box called a NUTMEG, which holds control cards. This same box can control video projectors, although not the projector we have now.

As of September, 2006, there are two DVD players, side-by-side where the laser disc player used to be. To get video from either DVD player, the video projector must be on (the VCR is no longer needed). Set video projector to monitor select line 1, input select as shown below, and turn up the brightness and contrast.

“Show” player on the left; input select line 1

This player has the video and sound for the shows. Shows with DVD video include Friendly Stars, Larry, Cat in Space, and Holiday Rocket.

Eventually all the pre-recorded shows with supplemental video will be self-contained; the video will all be on the show DVD. Larry is like that, and Marc is working on Holiday Rocket and River Through Time.

To avoid interfering with the show DVD, the other source of input on line 1 must be off: the XP computer. Instead of turning it off, the iMicro (the COMPUTER cable) can be unplugged from the LINE IN-2 jacks on the back of the video projector. Unplugging the iMicro will also make the DVD picture brighter. Remember to plug the iMicro back in when done.

“Animations” player on the right; input select line 2

This player holds the DVD with the animations from the Sky-Skan laserdiscs and replaces laser disc. To avoid interfering with the animations DVD, the other source of input on line 2 must be off: the VCR. Left-click the animation’s caption once with the mouse.

If all you need is sound but not video from the DVD player (Our Place in Space), the VCR and video projector do not have to be on, and the Windows XP computer does not have to be off or the iMicro unplugged.

To prevent the animations DVD player from interfering with the picture from the Windows XP computer, simply turn off the VCR.

Access the animations DVD player with a mouse and a new flatscreen in the console. The animations DVD has a maximum of nine buttons per page, so they’re more than big enough to on the 19" diagonal flatscreen. The flatscreen was a cheap one and the image looks awful, but most importantly you can see the little menu buttons and captions Marc made. To turn the DVD pages, click with the mouse on NEXT and BACK. Double click on the selected animation, and then press the ENTER button on the remote. To interrupt an animation, press MENU on the remote. The DVD starts with Earth, goes through the nine planets, asteroids and meteors, stars and optics, and cosmology. It’s most of the Sky-Skan stuff, minus murky ones or redundant ones, and plus an animation of a spectrum blueshifting and redshifting.

Hold the remote close to the DVD player you want it to operate, to avoid operating both at once. When Marc fixes the “run-on” problem, there will be no more need for the remote with player 2.

To repeat an entire disc forever, use “repeat a–b”. Press the button where you want to start a loop, then press it again where you want to end it.

Sound board: Studiomaster Club 2000 142 Hi Z Plus

The sound board must be turned on before the stack in the back room, and turned off after. Power switch is on upper right. Move two gray sliders to the heavy horizontal line; CD to –10.

Slider for animation CD is third from left.

There has been odd behavior out of the sound system, e.g., the CD player and other things still being audible after the volume is turned down. Marc thinks there is crosstalk between the audio cables, although the one for the hearing loop is supposed to go only to the audio loop. Until he can run a new shielded cable back there, keep the volume down on AUX 2—one of the blue knobs on the right side of the sound board, just above the two gray sliders on the right, the ones for the amps. AUX 2 is supposed to control the lever of the signal going to the loop. (March 1, 2008).

Audio cassette tape player: Tascam 133 Multi-image series

Red on/off switch is to the upper left of box. Cassettes are above the Zeiss motion controls: insert label out, rewind, and press CLEAR to set odometer to zero. Used only for The Friendly Stars and The Sky Tonight. Turned on and off by SwitchPulse 1.0 SWCH:A and B.

CD player: Gemini CD-4000

Power switch on left.

DLP projector: Sharp XR–10X–L

When the DLP projector is turned on, it first shows the text “Warming up. Please wait…” before showing any video. It can get stuck in this mode. This is probably because the screen is blank, for example, the first, blank screen of a PP presentation. If this occurs, try firing up the projector while an image is displayed, but still covered by the shutter, then paging back to a blank page.

Manual. Another link. Input 1 for XP, 2 for show DVD.

A fundamental limitation of LCD/DLP technology is that the light engine of the projector is never projecting zero light onto the screen. This leads to the GRIS—Gray Rectangle in Space—that dashed the hopes of many planetarium operators that they could just get a bunch of cheap LCD projectors and replace most of their slides.

There are LCD and DLP projectors with internal shutters, but those are huge and unnecessarily bright and start at $3K and move rapidly upward.

A company called Global Immersion has come up with a projector which uses another layer of LCD chip to subtract the light. The result is beautiful, but they don’t come cheap either. They make the most sense for all-dome installations.

The usual solution is to build an external shutter which swings down and covers the GRIS, allowing the starball to be used. These external shutters aren’t sufficient to blacken the dome if the projector is showing anything much other than a black screen, but they make the difference between a star show and a star show with a gray box in the middle of it.

Marc has made a shutter to cut off extra light from the DLP. It is controlled from the console bank of special effects (B7, on the sheet above the monitor) and although it could be controlled by Spice, there is no feedback into the system to let the system know where the wheel is positioned. There are a few old effects which have a “reset“ function, but it never seems to work reliably.

Video projector: Sony remote controller VPR-722S

Power button on left. Input select to line 1 for laser disc. To avoid projecting the alphanumerics, turn down the video projector brightness and contrast when typing SEARCH and PLAY commands into the laser disc remote control. Input select to line 2 for DVD, VCR, and Windows XP computer. keep them from interfering with each other:

  1. To project a picture and get sound from the DVD, the VCR must be off, and the Windows XP computer must be off or the iMicro (the COMPUTER cable) must be unplugged from the LINE-IN 2 jacks in the back of the video projector. (Unplug the iMicro anyway to get a brighter DVD picture.)
  2. To project a picture from the iMicro, the VCR must be off. (This will cut the DVD off from the video projector.)
  3. To project a picture from the VCR, the DVD must be off, and the Windows XP computer must be off or the iMicro unplugged.

HUE: what color

COLOR: intensity of color

SHARPNESS: who could be against maximum sharpness?

If the video background is too bright, climb up to the projector on the cove. There are little pot[entiometer]s inside the projector. Three control overall power to each tube, and three focus. Lift the cover and look on the right side (facing the projector’s business end, as you stand on the ladder). You’ll see them almost under the cover on the right.

Each source of video input has two jacks. The lower ones are locking D-pin connectors (for the DVDs); the upper ones are RCA connectors (for the XP and VCR).

Now that the monitor is hooked up to the video projector controller, selecting MONITOR 1 or 2 allows you to see the video coming in on the respective INPUT 1 or 2 lines.

The monitor has three modes, displayed in the upper right corner. The button that switches between them is on the far right.

  1. TV: just gives you static (no antenna hooked up)
  2. VIDEO: you get nothing (nothing running into S-VIDEO)
  3. S-VIDEO: you get the input from the video projector
That the monitor is hooked up to the controller for the video projector, not to the individual sources. Otherwise it would be too easy to forget to turn the video projector on, see everything going fine on the monitor, and then start pulling out your hair wondering why there’s no image on the dome.

The monitor’s aspect ratio does not match that of the computer screen; it stretches the picture vertically. The monitor is actually made for TV.

VCR: Panasonic AG-1350 VCR SQPB VHS Super 4 Head

The VCR is used for Follow the Drinking Gourd. When in use, set video projector to monitor select line 2, input select line 2. To set the VCR clock, enable the video projector, press menu on the Panasonic VCR/TV remote, and use the four arc keys and the ok button in the center. Set D.S.T. to YES or NO; then set hours and minutes.

The VCR needs to have “A1” next to the time. If “A2” or “_ _” are there, the computer will project without interference but not the DVD. On the lower right of the VCR there are 5 small buttons: ↓, ↑, rec, rewind, forward. ↓, ↑ change the VCR to A1.

July 4, 2008: Marc plugged the VCR into INPUT 4 on the DLP projector. Should not affect the internet computer or the cables twined around the wired mike. But the DVD player won’t come up unless you switch the wires.

Laser disc player: Pioneer LD-V8000

The laser disc player was retired in October, 2006, so this section is merely historical.

Power button at right lower edge. Set video projector to monitor select line 1, input select line 1. Turn off the laser disc sound on the sound board. The bottom side of a disc says “Place this side down”. To play a chapter, press the chapter number (one or two digits) on the laser disc remote, SEARCH, and PLAY. You may have to press PLAY more than once. Don’t press PLAY until the SEARCH light is off and the PLAY light is on on the front of the player. Plextor ConvertX will transfer content of laser discs to DVD.

Laser disc 4, chapter 35: Pluto and Charon (used in Voyage, Viaje, and Holiday Rocket)

You cannot SEARCH directly to the last chapter on the disc due to a flaw on the disc. The easiest way to play this chapter is to run the following program, which starts at address 35 to remind you what it does. Simply press 35 RUN/BRANCH on the laser disc remote control.

address argument com-
page comment
34   H 0xBF 4–35 halt: prevent previous program (if any) from running into this one
35   SFM 0x8E 4–30 set frame mode
36 51300 SC 0xF7 4–24 search to frame 51300
42   SCM 0x8C 4–31 set chapter mode
43   P 0xFD 4–22 start playing forward from current location
44   H 0xBF 4–35 halt; return to manual mode

Page numbers refer to the instruction set in Chapter 4 of the Level II User’s Manual. Decrease the frame number as far as 51221 to provide a delay before Pluto and Charon appear. Now that the laser disc player memory contains valuable programs, do not press the PROGRAM button on the remote control. If you do press it, please press the END button next to it immediately.

After the end of the last chapter, the player will go back to the start of the disc. If you would rather have the player park (de-spin) itself, reset bit 0 on page 2–18 of the manual for Levels I & III.

Cove lights

Spice power must be on for cove lights. The LAMP: letters are in alphabetical order: blue, red, yellow. The blue knob is mislabeled “g” for “green”. For 360° horizon glow, use very faint blue. Knobs will brighten but not dim while Spice computer is in control; press AUTO DISABLE to regain temporary control. The mysterious “Lamp D” on the Spice computer screen may once have been the old cardinal point indicators.

Many of the red lumilines are blown out. They cost $25 each. Why aren’t they red, green, blue, the three additive primary colors? Marc says “I don’t know why the system was made this way. Perhaps because a dim yellow was greenish, and getting a strong blue out of lumiline lights with colored sleves doesn’t work. Lumilines are lousy. The new LED systems are dazzling, with pure blues, glean greens, and saturated reds.”

The cove also houses the white wire for the hearing loop.

(lamp A)
(lamp C)
(lamp B)

Laser pointer

The Zeiss has a nine-pound pointer with a thick power cable. Marc resoldered it twice and it broke twice, but perhaps the third time will be a charm. Our Spectra laser pointer projects red at 635 nm.

Slew mirror (projector R)

List of slides. The motion controls for the zoom lens (and the slew mirror) are entirely separate from the lamps. To learn about the slew projector, run TEST.CUE to lines 53–55, where it lights up projector R. (The slew is also turned on in the setup section for Our Place in Space and is used manually in Daughter of the Stars, Holiday Rocket, and River Through Time.) Disengage (left), turn slew power on, joystick to center, speed to zero, turn on the two defeats, go to manual mode, raise the unlabled switch to the left of the Manual/Auto switch, and engage (right). Play with the joystick and speed. Turn on the defeats to enable motion in that direction. Leave slew in automatic for shows, switch to manual before used in Daughter. Slowest speed is 9:00.

To slew to the right, SwitchoN SWCH: N (DVD-OPIS.CUE, lines 296 and 305; DVDLARRY.CUE, lines 297 and 308; HOLIDAYR.CUE, lines 386 and 393, 826 and 836,). To slew to the upper right, SwitchoN SWCH: NO (lines 415 and 423 of DVD-OPIS.CUE). To slew to the left, SwitchoN SWCH: M (DVDLARRY.CUE, lines 263 and 270; HOLIDAYR.CUE, lines 395 and 404). Spice cannot change the speed of the slew.

Slew manually in DVD-DOTS.CUE, lines 231–233, 240–242, 256–258; and in A River Through Time, lines 139–144.

X Axis
red light ← →
XP-2B Mirror Controller by JHE

red light
Y Axis
left joy right

X-Y Motion

← → yellow light
(Armed when
LED is lit)


(Red = Manual
Green = Auto)
green light


Zoom lens (projector T)

List of slides. 300 watt bulb. Will not move at 2:00. To learn about the zoom projector, run TEST.CUE to lines 56–58, where it lights up projector T. You can always turn up the zoom speed and zoom in or out for a few seconds until you’re sure it’s at the end of its travel.

To zoom in, SwitchoN SWCH: K (lines 236 and 243, 722 and 728 of DVD-MARS.CUE; lines 316 and 320 of VIAJE.CUE). To zoom out, SwitchoN SWCH: KL (lines 249 546 of DVD-MARS.CUE; lines 270 and 279 of DVD-OPIS.CUE; lines 322 and 340 of VIAJE.CUE).

Setup section for Our Place in Space lights up zoom.


zoom in

zoom out
green light

Windows XP Computer: Hewlett Packard Vectra UL

Power button for screen is large button at bottom center of screen. Power button for computer is large button at right of front of computer. Control-alt-delete to boot up. Remove the screen filter to get more light. Celestia is on the desktop.

The desktop “Walk-in Presentation” folder contains an entry video to show as people walk in. No food and drink, a reminder about the target age of the show—that kind of thing. Also used for the following shows:

  1. The Sky Tonight: displays a series of animated GIFs
  2. Our Place in Space: the “StarDraw” file
  3. Can run QuickTime videos. For example, Saving the Night, a ten-minute video about light pollution narrated by David Levy, is on disc in the CD rack in the planetarium. Insert it in the XP computer, open either the 12 or 24 fps version, and select full screen under present video.

The screen resolution is set to 800 × 600 pixels, the lowest possible value.
start → Settings → Control Panel → Display → Settings → Screen resolution

To show or hide the Java virtual machine console,
start → Settings → Control Panel → Java → Advanced → Java Console → Show Console/Hide Console
and press the OK button.

If you don’t have a CD burner, the XP computer has USB jacks. You can put what you want on a USB flash drive ($30 for two gig!) or micro drive and pop it in. Unfortunately, the USB jacks are in the back. Marc has mounted a mirror on the Zeiss console behind the XP box, so you can see the ports, and we also have a USB extender. We have a 64MB flash drive, but it stays in the planetarium.

Cable modem: Scientific-Atlanta 2203C
Network router: Linksys Etherfast Cable/DSL Router BEFSR41

User’s Guide for 2203C.

Internet connection

Start → Settings → Control Panel → Network Connections → Local Area Connection → Enable.

The XP computer is not connected to the the museum’s network. It is connected to the 2203C cable modem in the electrical closet at the north-east corner of the Riverama exhibit downstairs. There used to be a the blue network router there, and the modem used to serve the Riverama computers too. The router, or the link from the modem to the router, seemed to not work. Our provider is Cablevision 866-575-800, account number 0780351428601 out IT guy is Vinny Corda (x234).

The connection has been down for a few weeks (May 31, 2008). Vinny looked at it and called the ISP; everything was fine on their end. So, try this if the connection goes down again.

  1. Unplug modem and router.
  2. Wait 20–30 seconds.
  3. Plug in modem and allow it to reset.
  4. Plug in router.
  5. You may have to do this twice.

traceroute from i5.nyu.edu to the XP on June 15, 2008

/usr/sbin/traceroute ool-4356e6e8.dyn.optonline.net
traceroute to ool-4356e6e8.dyn.optonline.net (, 30 hops max, 40 byte packets
 1  WWHDCGWA-VL13.NET.NYU.EDU (  0.442 ms  0.390 ms  0.337 ms
 2  NYUGWA-GI2-1.NET.NYU.EDU (  0.326 ms  0.377 ms  0.343 ms
 3  EXTGWA-VL15.NYU.NET (  0.463 ms  0.400 ms  0.347 ms
 4 (  1.582 ms  1.166 ms  1.220 ms
 5  tbr2.n54ny.ip.att.net (  7.074 ms  7.365 ms  6.959 ms
 6  cr2.n54ny.ip.att.net (  6.825 ms  6.628 ms  6.725 ms
 7  cr2.wswdc.ip.att.net (  6.809 ms  7.007 ms  6.825 ms
 8  tbr2.wswdc.ip.att.net (  7.200 ms  7.623 ms  9.956 ms
 9  ar9.wswdc.ip.att.net (  6.452 ms  6.260 ms  6.588 ms
10 (  7.822 ms  7.651 ms  7.584 ms
11  vl3496.mpd01.dca02.atlas.cogentco.com (  7.700 ms vl3494.mpd01.dca02.atlas.cogentco.com (  7.750 ms vl3497.mpd01.dca02.atlas.cogentco.com (  7.884 ms
12  vl3498.mpd01.dca01.atlas.cogentco.com (  7.866 ms vl3492.mpd01.dca01.atlas.cogentco.com (  8.016 ms te7-2.mpd01.dca01.atlas.cogentco.com (  7.830 ms
13  te1-7.ccr04.jfk02.atlas.cogentco.com (  7.841 ms  7.847 ms te2-4.mpd03.jfk02.atlas.cogentco.com (  8.084 ms
14  vl3491.mpd01.jfk05.atlas.cogentco.com (  7.737 ms vl3496.mpd01.jfk05.atlas.cogentco.com (  7.633 ms *
15  * * *
16  * * *
17  * rtr2-tg10-1.mhe.whplny.cv.net (  8.853 ms  8.380 ms
18  ool-4353e80a.dyn.optonline.net (  9.677 ms ool-4353e80e.dyn.optonline.net (  10.356 ms ool-4353e80a.dyn.optonline.net (  10.120 ms
19  ubr102-ge1-0-0.cmts.ynkrny.cv.net (  9.878 ms  9.507 ms  9.584 ms
20  * * *
21  * * *
22  * * *
23  * * *
24  * * *
25  * * *
26  * * *
27  * * *
28  * * *
29  * * *
30  * * *

AVerMedia AVerKey iMicro

On top of Windows XP computer. For clearest picture, display white on black background, ZOOM all the way in, with OVERSCAN as large as possible. With maximum zoom, we can display 383 × 223 pixels given the screen resolution of 800 × 600 pixels. With maximum overscan, this rectangle is 62.75° × 49.5° on the dome. (Check this again.) See the manual.

  1. Turn on Windows XP computer.
  2. Set video projector to monitor select line 2, input select line 2; turn up brightness and contrast knobs.
  3. To avoid interfering with the iMicro, the other source of input on line 2 (the DVD) must be off, or the VCR must be off to disconnect the DVD from the video projector. Remember to turn the VCR back on when done.

There are two 15-pin video cables going into the converter box. The black one comes from the XP computer, the blue one goes to the monitor. Undo the black one and plug your laptop’s 15-pin cable into the box. Marc would rather we not disconnect the cable from the XP computer itself, since it’s a pain to get back in.

Battery charger

Jennifer says, I have noticed that the 9-volt batteries no longer stay charged for very long. I try to leave the wireless Mic turned on overnight so the battery will run down to a complete NO charge, and then let that battery charge all day. I don’t know if that does any good, but I find that I am changing batteries in the middle of shows.

TC-101 Tyconic Copernican Orrery

Keep it set to “Observer North” to move counterclockwise; this is the view from above the noth pole looking downwards. Fade in sun and then switch on planets one by one. Jupiter and Saturn go below the horizon and become invisible. Makes alarming noise in Tyconic mode. “Orbit lines” does nothing. Conic Instrument Company. Used in Our Place in SpaceMarsQuest, Voyage, and Viaje. The drive belt was replaced with a new one from Sky-Skan, August 18, 2006. Another belt is tacked to the side of the cabinets in the back. December 15, 2006: Jupiter toggle snapped off.

This week [April 2008] it looked like the orrey motor wasn’t working. Marc had climbed up to write down the specs on the motor, wondering how he’d get another one, when he discovered that operating the Heliocentric/Geocentric switch had pushed the whole mechanism up against the equipment deck and loosened the power plug. Popped back in; back to life. So don’t use the Heliocentric/Geocentric switch unless you’re willing to jerk the orrey back into place.










red light

orbit lines
hour angle
  North (ccl)


South (cl)


Spice remote control: Panja MX2 Wireless Program Control

The button on the bottom advances the remote control.

Special effects (SFX)

Bottom row: DIS 3 and ALL SKY are actually to the right of DIS 2. Originally, we had two sets of all-skies.

  1. B6: Winter solstice (9 suns)
  2. C6: Equinox (12 suns suns)
  3. D6: Summer solstice (14 suns)

If stepper A isn’t turning off, it could be the knob under the little numeric LED display and the buttons (green up arrow, red down arrow, motor, relay) for the stepper. If those knobs are turned up, you’ll see quickly cycling effects on the dome as the stepper switches back and forth, or they’ll be on all the time.

The row of dimmers at the very bottom of the SFX stepper console can control some of the slide projectors. If those knobs aren“t down all the way, you“ll see the images dimly as the slide is changing.












Meteor Shower (LoCate 9 STEP: E)

To get a smooth, fast motion, the meteor projector projects light through two counter-rotating discs with inverse patterns of spiral line segments on them. When one of the wheels jams, you see only one wheel rotating. Fix this by going up and manually spinning the wheels, hitting them with a little 3-in-1 oil. Every few months they need to be relubed, and cleaned of gunk about once a year.

Zoom controls


Z controls


Forward and reverse controls

The HOME light goes on when you step back home.


Console controls



(covered light)

AUTO DISABLE is to the upper left of the Spice computer. Use it only when

  1. you set up the show, then leave to go to the bathroom or the like;
  2. you need to darken the theater suddenly to track down an anomalous source of light (something left on, a door ajar, etc.);
  3. when writing or programming a show.

AUTO DISABLE disengages the Spice computer, giving you control of the cove lights. Do not auto disable when running the setup portion of a Sky-Skan program. If you AUTO DISABLE when other people are present, adjust the cove lights first to keep the level of lighting the same. There is another button somewhere, which allows the computer to stay in control (commands will still be executed according to the computer’s internal clock) but turns off the SMPTE incoming.)

Spice commands on the DOS computer

The DOS computer (a 90 megahertz Penium) runs the Spice program C:\SPICE3\SPICE written by Sky-Skan,
(603) 880–8500 voice
(800) 880–8500 voice
(603) 882–6522 fax. Here is the executable.

  1. Make sure AUTO DISABLE is not pressed when typing Spice commands.
  2. The AUTOEXEC.BAT file in the C:\ directory is
    PROMPT $p$g
    There is another AUTOEXEC.BAT file in the C:\SPICE3 directory.
  3. C:\SPICE3\SPICE displays the following screen.
    Ds2L Ds2C Ds2R    Ds4L Ds4C Ds4R    CapL CapR      Zoom    Slew    AllS
    %100 %100 %100    %100 %100 %100    %  0 %  0      %  0    %  0    %  0
    D 39 E 35 F 38    J 37 K 55 L  0    U  0 V  0      T  0    R 57    S 44
    Ds1L Ds1C Ds1R    Ds3L Ds3C Ds3R    Ds5L Ds5C      Ds5R    PanP    PanQ
    %100 %100 %100    %100 %100 %100    %100 %100      %100    %  0    %  0
    A 39 B 35 C 38    G 37 H 55 I  0    M 39 N 35      O 38    P 22    Q 37
    Tape=9:35.50 B=0  Q=0.05 R=0 Cues=428 File=DVD-DOTS Stp1 Stp2 Stp3 Stp4
    Host Recv=00:09:50f14        11/19/05  11:33:22     %  0 %  0 %  0 %  0
                                                        A  0 %  B C  0 D  0
                                                        Stp5 Stp6 Stp7 Stp8
                                                        %  0 %  0 %  0 %  0
                                                        E  0 F  0 G  0 H  0
                                                        Blue Red  Yelo LmpD
                                                        A  0 B  0 C  0 D  0
                                                        Swch   Swch    Swch
                                                        ABCD   IJKL    QRST
    SPICE Automation Ver 3.24 Feb 9 2000 Sky-Skan       EFGH   MNOP    UVWX
  4. Before loading a new .CUE file, control-n (“new”) to move projectors back to first slide.
    Really delete all cues? (Y/N) ?               (You can type the y in lowercase.)
  5. control-l to load; ↓ to scroll to the filename. To load a .TXT file, spacebar to the Text File option and select it. If the file is empty, ESCAPE, exit from Spice, and launch the program again by saying spice. The seasonal programs change at the equinoxes and solstices.
    1. TEST.CUE
    2. FRIENDLY.CUE The Friendly Stars and MAGIC.CUE Magic Sky
    3. SKY_SM_P.CUE The Sky Tonight Summer, public (Saturday and Sunday)
    4. SKY_SM_F.CUE The Sky Tonight Summer, Friday night
    5. DVD-OPIS.CUE Our Place in Space
    6. DVD-DOTS.CUE Daughter of the Stars
    7. DVD-E&S.CUE and DVD-E&SY.CUE (young) Earth & Sky
    8. FDGOURD.CUE Follow the Drinking Gourd
    9. HOLIDAYR.CUE Holiday Rocket (uses DVD)
    10. DVDLARRY.CUE Larry, Cat in Space and DVD-FITO.CUE Fito, Gato en el Espacio
    11. DVD-MARS.CUE MarsQuest
    12. DVD-RTT.CUE A River Through Time
    13. DVD-RRLB.CUE Rusty Rocket’s Last Blast
    14. VIAJE.CUE Viaje a los Planetas
  6. The .CUE files contain the following keywords.
    1. Alt switches one projector for another without moving the slide trays, alternating between two static images.
    2. Dissolve fades down one projector, fades up another, and moves the faded-down projector forward one space.
    3. Fade
    4. ForWard
    5. LoCate
    6. LongFade
    7. MotorofF
    8. MotoroN
    9. Repeat: lines 338–345 of DVD-OPIS.TXT.
    10. RepStart: lines 338–345 of DVD-OPIS.TXT.
    11. ResetClock
    12. ReVerse: lines 273, 417, 454, 645, 717 of DVD-RRLB.TXT.
    13. RUN
    14. STop
    15. SwitchofF
    16. SwitchoN
    17. SwitchPulse turns the cassette tape on and off in lines 12 and 18 of FRIENDLY.CUE, lines 56 and 72 of WIN2006P.CUE, and lines 36 and 55 of FDGOURD.CUE. It also strobes the lightning in lines 291 and 298 of DVD-DOTS.CUE.
    18. Time
    19. Wait for a certain number of seconds. Used instead of Time in the RepStart/Repeat 10 loop in lines 337–344 of DVD-OPIS.TXT.
  7. The highlighted command is the next to be executed; it has not executed yet. When running TEST.CUE, FRIENDLY.CUE, and MARKSKYT.CUE, press ↓ to execute the highlighted line. If ↓ sticks or does not respond at all, there are two workarounds:
    1. Turn off Num Lock (the light will go off) and press 2 for down, 8 for up on the numeric keypad.
    2. Use the remote control.
  8. To pause a show, simultaneously press PLAY/PAUSE on the show DVD and ESC on the Spice computer.
  9. To read or edit a .CUE file without executing it, press control-e to enter edit mode. Then ↓ and ↑ to whatever lines you want to see. Control-a will duplicate the current line; you can then overwrite one of the copies. You must move off the new line with a ↓ or ↑ before you Save the file. When you’re done, travel back to the line at which you entered edit mode, and press control-e again to exit from edit mode. If you exit from edit mode at a different line, the computer will execute all projector and special effects positioning commands up to that point, i.e., it will LoCate PROJ and LoCate STEP as if the show had been running up until that point. However, Spice is intelligent enough not to fire strobes, turn the tape on and off fifteen times, or suchlike. If the program is running, control-e will toggle the SMPTE on and off. Not clear on the difference between edit mode and AUTO DISABLE.
  10. escape to see menus; ← and → to go to a different menu. To abort a running program, you must press escape before it will respond to a control-n.
  11. To copy a .CUE file from the Spice computer to the XP computer, save it as a .TXT file on a 3½ inch floppy. (The museum back office has them.) Put one into the Spice computer (drive A:), press ESCAPE, select Save As (control-s) and press Enter. Press Tab thrice to get to the window where you select drive A:, B:, or C:. Press ↑ twice to go up to drive A:, and Enter to select it. Then press Tab again to go to the Options window. Press the space bar for the Text File option, and press Enter.
    Saving  TEXT file "A:\FILENAME.TXT"…
    Cuefile -> "A:\FILENAME.TXT" Saved!
         Press any Key to continue.
    If you follow this with a control-n control-l to load a new .CUE file, you’ll have to change the *.txt to *.cue, and A: to C:. Whenever I try it, it fails to load the next .CUE file, so I have to quit from the Spice program (escape control-q) and restart it (spice).

    Insert the floppy into the XP computer (drive A:), open it with My Computer3½ Floppy (A:). Run winscp374 (on the desktop) to copy the .TXT file to another host.

  12. When erasing a file, be sure to exit from the “erase” dialog. The “erase” and “load” pop-ups look much the same.
  13. To set the current time (e.g., switch between EST and EDT), quit from the Spice program with control-n, escape, and control-q. Then
    C:\SPICE3> time
    Current time is hh:mm:ss.hha         (second hh for hundredths; a for a.m., p for p.m.)
    Enter new time: hh:mm
    C:\SPICE3> spice

Thyme IIA Data/Time Interface

The Thyme box is below the special effects board, to the left.





SPICE            HOST
00:11:56f20        OK
yellow light
green light




A PLAY show deck
B STOP show deck
C STOP aux deck
D PLAY aux deck
E –
F STROBE above console: SwitchPulse for the lightning in lines 291 and 298 of DVD-DOTS.CUE
G –
H –
I –
J –
K ZOOM in (actually, you need L too)
L ZOOM out
M SLEW left
N SLEW right
P SLEW down

Stack in back room, top to bottom

  1. ART HD-31 high definition graphic equalizer (power button lower right)
  2. ART HD-31 high definition graphic equalizer
  3. Oval Window Audio Satellite III. If the green light does not come on, it may be because the amplifier’s breaker had tripped. Not sure why, but Yonkers is notorious for power outages, undervoltages, and surges. If this happens, look at the front panel. Next to the rocker switch for power is the breaker (PEAK 3 AMP). No white should be visible on the breaker switch.
  4. Ashly stereo three way electronic crossover 12dB/Octave Model XR77E
  5. BGW power amp model 250C
  6. BGW power amp model 250C
  7. BGW power amp model 750C

Projectors in dome windows

Face the rear of the dome; east is to your right. P and Q are panorama.


Kodak Ektagraphic III EPlus Projectors in back of dome

No longer manufactured. Each projector is connected to a Cinnamon box. Projector J replaced, January 23, 2009.

TEST.CUE confirms that all projectors are on their “grid” slides (lowest tray position number). Projector H has a backward “Sky Tonight: SPRING&rdqo; instead of a grid. If not, the FWD and REV buttons to the left of the Spice screen will move the projector that is on. (There once was a clipboard at the console which had a complete listing of every slide in every projector, but most of the sheets were accidentally discarded.) The projectors can get out of sync if you move trays back and forth too much, or if you don’t allow enough time between executing cues for the projectors to get to where they have to go. When going through setup and a projector jumps when the power first comes on (this often seems to happen with the pan sets—one projector alone will move suddenly), you can up arrow back to the last set of projectors and this will get the wayward projector from the set back to the right place. Occasionally you may need to climb a ladder if one of the A–O bank gets stuck. Pressing down the black select bar can free it.

The grid slides may be out of focus when the projectors are cold, and it goes away when they warm up, and vice versa. Use GANG FOR and GANG REV to go back or forward a bit and look at the show slides.

The OFF/FAN/1/2 selector on each projector should be set to FAN, which allows the Spice system to fully control the projector. OFF would keep anything from happening, no matter what commands the system sends to the projector. 1 and 2 are low and high lamp levels. If you were operating the projector manually, this is how you would turn it on. But a projector hooked up to Spice will operate erratically with these on; images may appear when they’re not supposed to be there, or it may respond too slowly or too quickly. The zoom and slew use nonstandard lenses and have to be focused by fiddling with the lens itself. The rest of the projectors are focused by turning the black circular knob at the front of the side of the projector.

Sometimes spreading the tines of a bulb slightly helps it sit in the socket better.

Projector L was not reliably fading up. Marc took it out, and it was a textbook example of “pin fry,” when one of the control pins corrodes and it’s resistance rises…and then the corrosion makes the resistance rise more, etc. until the plastic on the cable is singed and swollen and the socket on the projector is cooked. Marc has heard this called a fire hazard if it’s allowed to go too long. In any case, to see what he means, look at the projector and Cinnamon box in the back room with the PIN FRIED sticker on them. [26 Oct 2007]

Go up behind the dome if one of the projectors in the pan set gets off. The pan projectors cannot be controlled individually. Sometimes on initial setup one of the pan projectors will jump; ↑ to the previous line and the wayward projector may straighten itself out. Bulbs are 250 and 300 watt.

In Our Place in Space, one of the pan projector bulbs may be about to go, and the one with the banyan may be too bright. The 300 watt projector bulbs are only for the All-Skies, and perhaps also the zoom. The pans produce relatively small images, so they don’t need to be quite so bright. Often, images (e.g., constellation figures) which are meant to show against a starry backdrop are not faded up 100%.

Marc replaced projector G on August 18, 2006.

Why are the slides out of focus? The problem is twofold. Use of the projectors (slides crashing up and down, replacing and removing trays, changing bulbs) as well as slight changes in humidity and temperature can shift parts of the projectors around. Also, not all the mounts are of the same type. Some are heavy-duty mounts, some medium-duty, some cardboard, some specialized mounts that came with the showkit, some glass-plate-in-sleeve. The different mounts don’t all hold the plane of the film in exactly the same place, so even if one slide is in focus, another will be out of focus. We shall attempt to find a happy median.

The pans are occasionally wiping out because their gates aren’t going down at they should. They need blank slides, and Marc has put a bunch in. There are only a few of these blanks, and Marc is leaving the ones left by the ladder to the crawlspace for quick repairs. Let Marc know if any more appear. (May 7, 2007).

Simultaneous LoCate

Marc writes: Today (July 20, 2007) I tried to load Rusty Rocket for a camp group and about half of the projectors jumped a slide forward when the setup portion of the program brought up projectors A–O simultanetously. When I set up Voyage to the Planets 45 minutes later, the projectors were fine, perhaps because that program brings up only the five at the top of each stack, then the five in the middle, then the five at the bottom.

Turning on everything at once is the “old” way, turning on smaller banks was done because it’s easier to tell what’s going on, turns out it’s probably also best as the tolerance of the equipment drops.

I’ll change the setup of any shows for which this might be an issue. This may be a transitory problem. Of course, it could also just keep getting worse.

Where the projectors are located

Facing toward the rear.

A   D G J   M
B   E H K   N
C   F I L   O

Slew projector (R) is to left of projector C.

Where the projectors are aimed

Facing toward the front.


List of Slides

NASA used to send out big packages of slides and prints and documents, but all that is done over the internet now.

Slides for use in the slide projectors should be in chunky, “antinewton” and most commercial slides are in plastic mounts without glass cover.

All-Sky (projector S)

Changing their bulbs (300 watt) should be easier than changing the banked projectors A–O, since the all-skies are lower. The only annoying part is positioning the ladder to reach the projectors on the sides of the dome. If one of the orange slices fails to light up during TEST.CUE, go to the projector in question, lift off the foamcore “hood”, and get the tray moving again using simple brute force. The slide for the due-north sector in TEST.CUE is the one that usually gets stuck. The all skies, and each bank of pans, are “ganged”, meaning that the control cable goes through a splitter and the same control signals are sent out. Ideally, they should operate as a unit, but as you’ve seen, they don’t always.

To move all the All-Skies forward and backward simultaneously, press ALLSKY A FOR and ALLSKY A REV.

Daytime clouds (LoCate 0 STEP: B)

Replacing the bulb in the cloud projectors is a litle hairy, but the worst part is setting up the ladder to climb up there. For the one above the console, you have to actually set up the ladder inside the console, steps facing forward. Try it any other way and you’ll get the idea. It looks as if it needs to be dismantled and the socket replaced. A messy, two-hour job.

Snow (LoCate 8 STEP C, LoCate 0 STEP: E) in Friendly Stars

The snow is covering only half the dome. There are four snow projectors, roughly at the cardinal points of the dome. Years ago, they were all hooked into the same “stepper” on the special effects board, and worked fine. A little over a year ago, they suddenly quit. A quick call to Sky-Skan indicated that the projectors, as they age, are drawing enough current to trip the stepper’s breaker. They suggested splitting the four projectors between two steppers, which Marc did. Now, not only have two projectors tripped the effect again, but you can hear a BUZZZZ as the two working projectors ramp up. This is caused by interference with the sound system. Perhaps there is a loop of wire around the speaker cables, or an iffy ground. Tracing the problem is a pain and Marc hasn’t found it yet. It might interfere with the hearing loop, too. If Marc hasn’t figured it out by March 14 2007, he will start bugging Sky-Skan again.

Hearing Loop

The Museum has two “hearing loop” systems, in the planetarium and the auditorium. They use an induction system, driven by a loop of white wire strung around the perimeter of the planetarium up by the cove. This does not mean that the planetarium dome is now someone’s eruv.

There are two ways visitors can use them. People with compatible hearing aids can switch them to “T” setting (“telecoil” or “telephone”) which picks up variations in magnetic fields transmits them to the wearer. When the loop is tied to the sound system, whatever is going through the sound system can be heard better by someone wearing a “T” hearing aid. These systems also have headsets which serve the same function. There will be three headsets for the planetarium and three for the auditorium, although they may be traded back and forth as needed. There is a sign on the wall as people walk in, at adult eye level, announcing the availability of the telecoil system.

Marc has been testing it and it works fine. There are two main sources of interference; the CRT of the SPICE computer (mid-range buzz) and the phone (low buzz) but that only seems to be a problem if you’re within eighteen inches or so of the CRT and six inches of the phone.

The amplifier is back in the rack of equipment in the back room, and tied into the sound system. Anything which goes through the sound system also goes through the loop. You can turn it on when you turn on the audio equipment, or wait until it is requested.

The headsets will be kept under the Zeiss console for now. Marc will get some alcohol wipes or gel for sterilization. They work best when draped around the next and kept relatively vertical. The seats on the perimeter are right under the wire in some places (the wire will not work if it is outside the dome) so sitting on the outer edge of the seats is ill-advised.

The operator must

  1. turn on the loop amp in the back;
  2. hand out the headsets or remind people about the “T” switch;
  3. advise people to avoid the perimeter.

Westchester Amateur Astronomers

The planetarium operator has two main responsibilities during a WAA meeting.

First is helping the speaker set up. Usually this means loading a PowerPoint presentation from disc into the XP computer, or hooking up a laptop to the video adapter box iMicro on top of the XP computer, (the hookups are now labeled FROM COMPUTER, TO MONITOR, POWER and TO PROJECTOR), and sometimes putting the lavalier on them, or standing at the console and paging down through the presentation when the speaker indicates. (yes, a PowerPoint remote is #215 on the list of Things To Get from Staples.) Sometimes, rarely now, someone has a slide tray, and Marc will load that in projector H or I, and use the program WAA.CUE in the computer. Sometimes someone brings their own projector, but setting this up is a pain and hazardous (too much to trip over) so they really should use the planetarium projector, although the resolution is lousy. Marc puts a longer cable down there for the weekend so it’s easier to set up.

Second task is very important: making sure the presentation ends a few minutes before 9:00.

Troster Damage—Incident Reporting

When anything is damaged in the galleries, tell the guards. Security will fill out an incident report form. Dan Gillespie, the Director of Facilities and Capital Projects, will get the form and forward it to the registrar.

An incident form should also be filled out when there is an injury, an altercation, or something major disappears from the planetarium.


The maintenance break room in the basement of Glenview has a shower, directly under the back office. Go down the stairs, turn 180°, and go through the door. The shower is through the break room, in the back corner by the guards’ lockers and walkie-talkie storage. It was originally made for emergencies, but it’s been cleaned up.