John Rudolph Planetarium

The planetarium is available for various school and education groups.

The late John Rudolph envisioned a planetarium in the Edwin E. Ritchie Observatory from the very beginning and included the idea in the Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA) Charter. He saw the planetarium as an effective teaching tool particularly for children, but for anyone interested the kind of introductory exposure to astronomy possible through exciting and informative planetarium shows. Rudolph said it best:

John Rudolph“We believe that the Ed Ritchie telescope coupled with planetarium presentations is an outstanding teaching combination. We hope that some young people will be inspired by the experience we can offer to take up scientific pursuits and contribute to our knowledge of the universe during the course of their lifetime. At minimum, a student who is exposed to the knowledge we can dramatically impart will have more appreciation for the miracle which surrounds us, and will be much better equipped to live and succeed in this remarkable time of the greater exploration of our universe.”

Memorial to a remarkable man: Since the day John Rudolph arrived as a starry-eyed young architect fresh from New Jersey and Princeton University, creating a planetarium was almost the only thing he didn’t accomplish during his fifty-year sojourn serving the Bainbridge community. Rudolph was one of those rare people with astronomical ideas and the gumption to go after them, so his contributions to Bainbridge Island were legion. They included everything from spearheading the creation of our first public library, to the transformation of Battle Point Park itself from an abandoned military installation to the beautiful park it is today Digitarium Alpha Projector planetarium image of the constellations from Greek and Roman Mythology Reach for the Stars!

John Rudolph’s original architectural model for the observatory complete with a planetarium in the meeting room. — complete with a unique haven for amateur astronomers that Rudolph and scores of volunteers built out of a derelict Army radio facility — the Edwin E. Ritchie Observatory. It’s no wonder that, after Rudolph passed away, his friends and fellow astronomers decided to realize his dream of a planetarium for him; and the John H. Rudolph Planetarium Project was born. Just one little hitch: When Rudolph designed the BPAA meeting room in 1994, he included specifications for an inhouse dome for planetarium shows. However, in all these years there has been no suitable planetarium projector on the market. The available projectors were either: · far too expensive for a small community, · too unwieldy for portable shows in public schools · not sophisticated enough educationally But, to BPAA’s delight, everything changed in 2003 when Digitalis Education Systems, Inc. of Bremerton developed a reasonably priced, educationally rich and versatile, highly portable planetarium system . With the availability of this unique new system, John Rudolph’s final dream is now within reach.

The Digitalis Alpha Planetarium

The Digitalis Alpha Planetarium

The Digitalis Alpha Projector: This fisheye-lens, electronic projector is an ideal instrument for state-of-the art planetarium shows both in the Ritchie Observatory meeting room and in schools and other venues. At 32 pounds, the projector is highly portable. The Digitalis Alpha runs a sophisticated software program called Stellarium that includes stunning Hubble photographs and allows for program development — an exciting Battle Point Astronomical Association John H. Rudolph Planetarium Project 3 option for astronomers interested in program design. Also, Digitalis includes a set of excellent pre-designed planetarium shows.

The Dome: The target dome size would fit a classroom of children, their teacher, chaperones, and the presenter, totaling about thirty-five people. BPAA has chosen two domes:

  1. 1. Digitalis offers a portable, fabric, 16’ dome, weighing about 35 pounds, inflated by a fan weighing under 30 pounds. This dome would be excellent for traveling planetarium shows particularly in schools.
  2. A semi-permanent dome will be constructed in the Ritchie Observatory meeting room for inhouse shows.
The Portable Dome Inflated

The Portable Dome Inflated

Audiences for the Planetarium:

  • Bainbridge public school children and beyond: BISD curriculum administrator Faith Chapel expressed definite interest in BPAA’s potential planetarium program being offered to Bainbridge school children. Ms. Chapel felt either a traveling show coming to the school or a field trip to the observatory would be an excellent adjunct to the new astronomy curriculum. It is possible that an economical planetarium show would be used widely throughout Kitsap county and even farther afield on the peninsula.
  • Special groups such as Scouts, 4-H, etc.: These groups visit the observatory now and would in all likelihood enjoy planetarium shows as well as the telescope tour.
  • BPAA astronomers: The planetarium could be a teaching/learning tool, and a programming adventure for BPAA members.
  • Astronomy Class: The planetarium could be used by Paul Middents, professor of Astronomy for Olympic College, in teaching the BPAA astronomy courses on Bainbridge Island.
  • Teachers: Teachers are required to continually educate themselves, keeping current in their professions. BPAA planetarium shows could help them meet their educational requirements.
  • General public attending Star Parties and Astronomy Day: Planetarium shows could run during the various public events BPAA now holds at the observatory.
  • Students of Celestial Navigation: This audience was suggested to Planetarium Committee members, but we have not yet had an opportunity to investigate whether they could use the planetarium.
The Planetarium in action

The Planetarium in action

Additional Planetarium Info:

  1. The Planetarium’s Beginnings
  2. Designing a Planetarium Dome