The Versant Power Astronomy Center is located at the University of Maine, the University of Maine System flagship campus in Orono. Situated in the north east corner of campus, the Astronomy Center takes advantage of the dark skies available to show not only the virtual sky in the theater, but the real sky that is always just above your head.
In the lobby there are a variety of informative visuals and interactive exhibits for visitors to explore before and after the show.
The glass display case next to the gift shop shows all the toys, novelty items and souvenirs that are offered for sale at the Emera Astronomy Center gift shop. Proceeds all benefit the Jordan Planetarium and Observatory. More information on the items and prices which the astronomy center gift shop offers can be found at the Gift Shop page.
Connected to our lobby is a large classroom specifically to provide space for activities that have been unavailable to the planetarium in the past. This multi-purpose classroom is equipped with multiple displays, a high-definition projector and tablets, as well as all kinds of analog demonstration materials to help visitors better understand what they are seeing in the night sky. With these new facilities students can get an interactive and hands on learning environment like never before. It’s also a great place to host Birthday Parties!
The Planetarium Theater
The new Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium features a 10 meter (33 foot diameter) dome, the largest in the state, tilted forward 22 degrees for ease of viewing. The metal dome itself is perforated; made of 24% holes to keep it lighter and allow for better air flow. The dome is transformed during a presentation into an interactive theater screen. The projection system consists of two twin projectors located behind the front wall facing back, and above the presenter’s console facing forward. These two projectors work in tandem to fill the entire dome with video, and the unique shape of the projection screen makes for some interesting 3-D perception.
The Digital Sky/Dark Matter system allows us to fill the dome with stars like never before. With an optical star projector like our old Spitz model 373, affectionately called ‘Franklin’, you can see the stars above the earth as they would appear at most locations on earth at any time of the day or year. Digital Sky allows us to go far beyond that. The planetarium now has the capability to view the stars from any time or place on Earth as well as the sky from any other planet in our solar system and the ability to fly through space in an astronomically accurate 3-D model of the universe. With the Digital Sky system the planetarium can fly from its home in Orono, to the North Pole, to the moons of Saturn, to the Pleiades star cluster more than 400 light-years away, and back again on a whim.
During star shows the planetarium host gives tips on finding constellations in the night sky, using the planetarium as an interactive classroom. The intimate environment allows easy question and answer exchanges between the host and visitors.
The all-digital system also provides a medium for educational films specifically designed for viewing on the dome. With help from a planetarium presenter and these exciting shows, a planetarium visit becomes an in-depth and engaging educational experience that is fun for visitors of all ages. Crystal clear space images, personable narrators, informative dialogue, and mind bending special effects weave stories and imaginary journeys into the Planetarium Programs.
Donations help secure the future of the Jordan Planetarium and observatory here at the University of Maine. They assist in acquiring new programming, keeping our technology up to date, and providing numerous astronomy and science opportunities for students of all ages and the general public.