Almost all commercial planetarium producers of full dome programs make pre-recorded fulldome movies requiring no live presenter. It is very expensive to produce those programs and as a result, they are costly to purchase. An audience participation program is different. It requires a live presenter or facilitator, and is far less costly to produce. There is a greater potential for audience engagement and interest also, depending not just on the subject matter, but the experience and skill of the live presenter.
All the PASS programs have audience participation, but let's look at the Constellations Tonight show as an example of how PASS programs are unique in several ways. The program is almost always timely in that it focuses on how the sky looks "tonight", any time of the year. The subject of constellations in that most traditional methods have a very didactic approach where the constellations are pointed out in a recording or even by a live lecturer, some stories may be told, and perhaps some additional information. With such a show, the audience members might find it interesting, but if you ask them how to find a given constellation in the real night sky, they would almost surely be at a loss. In Constellations Tonight, the focus is on teaching the visitors/students how to find the constellations using a star map. They are given the star map to keep, so unlike with a traditional constellation show, they are fully equipped to find constellations in the real sky, whether for their own enjoyment or to impress friends and lovers.
Some PASS programs include video files, but for the most part, they are not full-dome. They are used the way old-time special effects projectors were used to display phenomena like galaxy rotation, spacecraft actions, motion of ring particles, and such. The essential fulldome element that PASS relies on is the night sky and all the features that any planetarium is intrinsically made to create—not only a beautiful full dome night sky, but how the sky looks any time of night in any day of the year, and various movements of objects in the sky. With digital systems, there are built in marvelous capabilities such as "traveling" to objects in the sky. The night sky is precisely the full dome effect that is employed to maximum use in the Constellations Tonight program. The only additional imagery needed is some binocular and telescope images of objects in different constellations as well as constellation outlines. Most digital systems have built in constellation outlines that may be preferable to use. PASS users are free to adapt the programs any way they want and use whatever capabilities their particular projection systems have.
For consultation or to arrange for a workshop on audience participation, contact Alan Gould <>.
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