The Mayborn Planetarium at Central Texas College off of Hwy. 190 in Killeen has been open for six years, but the management is still adding new shows and programs all the time to make the technology more appealing to the community.
“The shows we run are based on full-dome technology,” planetarium director Fred Chavez said. “This requires five computers, each with its own computer, to overlap the images on screen and create the immersive display the audience sees.”
He went on to say that, while the shows are meant to be fun, they are also mainly educationally based.
One show the planetarium has recently begun offering is “Tales of the Maya Skies,” a program that discusses many of the myths and traditions of the ancient Mayans.
“Before you get your hopes up, no, the show does not discuss the supposed end of the world,” Chavez said, laughing. “Instead, it really delves into the lore behind the Mayan creation story and their unique numbering system, as a few examples.”
A newer addition to the planetarium’s show list is called Space Park 360, a program designed to simulate theme park rides on various planets.
“This one is really cool because one minute you can be riding a roller-coaster on Mars, and the next you are on a drop zone on the moon,” Chavez said. “The entire show is done full-dome, so it really feels like you are on these rides. And, while you are having fun, you are also learning about the solar system.”
Dr. Darrell Watson, dean of the college of sciences at UMHB and adviser for the Sigma Pi chemistry club, visited the planetarium several years ago with a group of students, and he said everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“We plan to visit again this year,” he said. “I think that a planetarium open to the public is a great idea and a terrific asset to our community. I just wish it was on our campus.”
Educational shows are just a small part of what the planetarium offers, however.
The last weekend of August, CTC hosted its first-ever GeekFest at the planetarium. The festival was meant to celebrate all things “geek,” and saw a large community turn out.
“After the successes we had with the event, I was specifically told that I had to do GeekFest again, so we are hoping to make it a yearly event,” Chavez said.
Another type of show the planetarium frequently offers is the laser-light show. Last year, a laser-light rock show was done with music by Pink Floyd, and the staff is looking for suggestions for new artists to design shows around.
“Some of the musicians that we are thinking about include Green Day, Rhianna and Lady Gaga,” Chavez said. “If anyone has ideas for a band they would like to see a show done around, we want to hear suggestions.”
About the planetarium in general, he said, “A lot of people want to compare it to an Imax theater, and that’s not it. An Imax is big and tall, but the planetarium goes one step further. This is big and tall and all around you. It takes it to a whole different level.”