After many years of planning and nearly a year of work, the new Madeline D. and Joseph J. Longo Planetarium opened April 15 at the County College of Morris. It is the first major overhaul of the facility since it debuted in 1973. The new planetarium and digital theater – an $827,000 upgrade – offer increased and upgraded seating, new lighting, a state-of-the-art sound system, and the latest in planetarium projection equipment, the Digistar 4 SP2 HD Digital Planetarium System.
Thanks to the generosity of individuals, corporations and private foundations, including a major gift from the founding donors, Mr. and Mrs. Longo, more than $613,000 was raised privately for the new facility, 74% of the total cost.
“My hope is that we can inspire a sense of adventure and spark the mind and the imagination of a future scientist,” said Joseph Longo, who lives in Morristown and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the County College of Morris.
“This is truly a wonderful new facility, not only for our college but for the entire community,” said Dr. Edward J. Yaw, president of the college. “Of the more than 14,000 visitors every year, the vast majority are school children whose interest in astronomy and science is no doubt peaked by a visit to the CCM planetarium.”
The Digistar 4 SP2 HD Digital Planetarium System will allow for projections of the night sky and the planets in greater detail than before. In addition, with the ability to project subtitles onto the dome and an enhanced multimedia system, the new equipment will expand the capabilities to serve and enthrall visitors with hearing and learning disabilities, something that was not possible with the previous system.
The new Longo Planetarium boasts 1,380 square feet of space, and includes custom acoustic wall panels, new floor tiles, a refinished dome, increased theater style seating – from 84 to 91 – enhanced lighting, a new climate-controlled server room, a projector platform and a control desk.
A new Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant ramp and power-assist doors have been installed to make the new planetarium accessible to all. There is a new entrance lobby and the corridors have received new carpeting, upgraded lighting, paint, back-lit display units, upholstered benches and a donor recognition plaque. New exterior signage was also installed.
“With the new projection system, we will be able to show fully animated, three-dimensional renderings of the planets,” said Christopher Fenwick, the director of the CCM Planetarium.
“For example, students hear that the Great Red Spot of Jupiter acts like a storm, but now we'll be able to show them this in action – an image of Jupiter can fill the dome, and the spot can be seen rotating and swirling, and gobbling up other, smaller storms in its path.”
The fee for all shows is $3 for children, $5 for adults, and $4 for seniors and CCM faculty/staff/students. Public shows are available on some weekends and the planetarium specializes in pro¬grams for school groups during the week.
To make reservations, which are mandatory, school groups should call 973-328-5076. Public and private groups should contact 973-328-5755 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit the Longo Planetarium website at www.ccm.edu/planetarium
Pictured: The opening of the new Madeline D. and Joseph J. Longo Planetarium on April 15 included the unveiling of a donor wall recognizing the more than $613,000 raised for the new facility. Taking part were (from left) Joseph Vitale, president of the County College of Morris Foundation; Joseph and Madeline Longo, founding donors; and Dr. Edward J. Yaw, president of the County College of Morris.