Besser Museum digital planetarium offerings expanded

‘Tis the season to catch a planetarium show at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan.

Since installing a new state of the art digital system and hiring a new digital dome program coordinator, the museum has significantly expanded its planetarium offerings, both in terms of content and number of shows.

Executive Director Christine Witulski said for the first time in many years, the museum is once again offering planetarium shows on Sundays.

“We’re very excited to announce that we will be hosting shows on Sunday,” Witulski said. “People for years have come into the museum and shared their stories of getting out of church on Sunday or going to a Sunday brunch and then coming to the planetarium. It’s a large part of their memories, and they have been asking for years if we are going to do Sunday shows again.”

Not only are three shows being offered on Sundays, but there also are five shows available on Saturdays and two shows on Wednesdays through Fridays.

“Having a digital dome coordinator on staff has allowed us to present more public programming, and that seems to fit with the larger population’s busy schedules of today,” Witulski said.

It has fallen to Thaddeus LaCoursiere, the digital dome program coordinator since July, to develop new programs and expand the offerings. He’s enthusiastically taken up the challenge, and always invites public input and questions.

“We’re continually improving,” LaCoursiere said. “With every show that we do there is feedback on how we need to change things. Visitor interest tells what we should do in the future. There are always different events that come up and give us a chance to develop shows based around those events.”

LaCoursiere added that he’s happy with where the museum currently is at in terms of the planetarium.

“I will be even happier with where we will be in the future,” he said. “It’s definitely been a lot of hard work and continual improvement.”

Shows developed include “Season of Light, Season of Dark,” which LaCoursiere put together specifically for the museum’s opening gala held in celebration of its annual Season of Light exhibit.

“The overall theme is that while people think of the holidays as very bright with all the lights on, it is in fact the darkest time of the year astronomically speaking,” he said. “Our first goal was to talk about why that is happening and give a really good introduction to one part of the Earth’s movement around the sun.

“Because we don’t want to crush everyone’s dreams, we also included some of the very bright things happening at this time of year – some bright stars and constellations, events like meteor showers and deep sky objects,” LaCoursiere said.

The current schedule of shows will remain in place only through the end of the year, when new programming will be introduced. According to LaCoursiere, the goal is every two to three months to change up the selection.

The “Michigan Skies Live” show will, however, remain a constant all year long as the show focuses on objects viewable in the night sky with each changing season. Visitor participation is a key element.

“It’s a completely live show,” LaCoursiere said. “It is very interactive, and we will talk about anything the audience is interested in at that time. People are encouraged to come with questions for that show, and I will answer them. I may not have the answers right away, but I will look them up.”

Up to date information on the planetarium and the schedule of shows is always available at the museum’s website, www.bessermuseum.org.