NEWARK — In less than an hour, Michael Stamatikos took a group on a tour of the universe, did a quick geopolitical analysis of population densities on the Korean peninsula and sped the sun across the Licking County sky in a time-lapse depiction of a typical day.
As a closeup of a rabbit’s liver zoomed overhead, the assistant professor of astronomy and physics at Ohio State University answered the question he often gets concerning the new planetarium at The Works in downtown Newark.
What else can it do?
"My best answer is, 'Anything you want,'" Stamatikos said. "It’s a multi-sensory, immersive, interdisciplinary delivery system that will basically turn Newark into a modern-day Lyceum," referring to a school of sorts where art, science and other subjects were discussed and debated by philosophers such as Plato, Socrates and Aristotle.
Stamatkios is the founding director and chief science officer of the new SciDome at the science, history, art and technology center, located at 55 S. First St., a couple of blocks away from the Licking County Courthouse.
The latest addition to The Works will open to the public Saturday, with free admission and special activities from noon to 5 p.m. in the dome and the rest of the center. The day will include an appearance by astronaut Don Thomas, an Ohio native.
Moving forward, admission to the planetarium will be included with the admission price for The Works: $10 for adults, $8 for those age 55 and older, and $6 for children ages 2-17. Works members are admitted free.
The 30-foot, tilted dome and high-tech systems are the culmination of a couple of years of development by The Works and Ohio State. Marcia Downes, The Works executive director, said the facility cost more than $2 million, with $1.8 million raised from community and other groups and $600,000 committed by the university.
The 2,200-square-foot SciDome includes theater-style seating for about 60 people. Besides visitors to The Works, the planetarium will be used for educational programs and outreach.
William MacDonald, dean and director of OSU-Newark and executive dean of the university’s regional campuses, said college classes will be offered at the site. An astronomy course taught by Stamatikos will have all of its sessions under the dome.
There will also be professional development for teachers and programming for schoolkids. An annual STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) night is planned to spotlight research at OSU-Newark, and initial work is underway to connect the SciDome to the International Space Station.
"The goal here is to make Newark a destination, not an alternative," Stamatikos said. "And this mirrors nicely the investment that's happening in downtown Newark."
Visitors will see constellations and other space-related depictions that you would expect at a planetarium. During a recent preview of the SciDome's capabilities, Stamatikos zoomed beyond the Milky Way.
"Every smudge you see here is a galaxy," said Stamatikos. "And these galaxies have over 100 billion stars each. There’s roughly 10,000 galaxies in this image."
But beyond astronomy, the dome also can be used to simulate earth’s different layers or the populations and other information about other countries. Another program provides up-close views of the different parts of the human anatomy.
"I’m excited about the stuff we haven’t even thought about yet," Stamatikos said. "We’re going to educate on all levels. We’re going to use initially astronomy, which most people enjoy, as a gateway science to lifelong learning."
The Works is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional information about the center can be found online at www.attheworks.org.