Lecture Hall, Event Space, or Night Sky?

The planetarium at Kent State offers a unique learning experience by replicating the night sky for the 2024 total solar eclipse

Did you know we have a planetarium? Well, we do. Smith Hall at Kent State University is home to this versatile room that can be used for classes, events and can even replicate an easier-to-see version of the night sky. This April, the planetarium will be hosting special shows on the day of the eclipse.


Michael Strickland

When you walk into the planetarium, you are greeted with seats, a whiteboard and all the characteristics of a “normal” classroom. Walking further, though, you will be in the center of an overhead 40-foot diameter white dome. As the lights go down, a Spitz Projector emerges from the center of the classroom, which projects the night sky, the moon and even the sun onto the dome.

Michael Strickland, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physics, said even though the planetarium is due for an update, it still provides the amazing views and celestial skies that it did 50 years ago. Now, it is student-run during events, offering students access to one of the university’s distinctive programs.  

Exciting content is planned for April 8 as a part of Total Solar Eclipse 2024. The day will feature keynote speaker and College of Arts & Sciences Advisory Board member, Beth A. Cunnigham, Ph.D., a three-time Kent State graduate in physics (‘82, ‘83, and ‘87), who serves as executive officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers. The shows will be held before and after the eclipse in the Planetarium at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. in Room 108 at Smith Hall.

“We tailor the different shows depending on the audience,” Strickland said. “We have presenters here telling them what they’re looking at for each of the shows.”  

Some of the content includes looking at constellations, looking at the passages of the Sun and the Moon and showing the motion of the planets, Strickland said.  

“The events will consist of a guided show through the stars both in the northern and southern hemisphere and discuss the motion of the planets while focusing on information about the eclipse through a video presentation,” Strickland said.  

Planetarium project collapsed and hidden

The Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement collaborated with other units and departments on campus to decide on an itinerary for Total Eclipse Day.

Jason Hawk, associate director of events in the Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement, has played a key role in event planning and coordination.  

“A university-wide planning committee has been meeting for months to prepare for the eclipse. Planetarium shows were a logical programming choice when determining what would fit within the itinerary of the day and what would interest our audience,” Hawk said.

David Grober, senior director of philanthropy, explained that events can assist in philanthropic needs to enhance Kent State’s programs.  

Planetarium Spitz Projector

“Visitors will enter a welcoming environment in Smith Hall on our Science Corridor, then enjoy shows in the Planetarium throughout the day,” Grober said. “Our facility can even be enhanced if they are inspired to partner with us by contributing to physical or programmatic needs.”  

The Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement uses donor gifts to “help students expand their horizons” and “grow from being students of life into persons of global impact after graduation.”  

“The connection is born when they are enrolled as students in a chosen field at one of our campuses,” Grober said. “The experiences they have in and out of the classroom mark the foundation for their giving back as alumni, which we hope lasts a lifetime.”  

Learn more about the Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement's Eclipse Events.

Learn more about the Physics Department.  

Learn more about the University's Total Solar Eclipse 2024 Planning.

POSTED: Tuesday, March 19, 2024 12:53 PM
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2024 09:34 AM
Francesca Malinky, Flash Communications
Francesca Malinky