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President's Message
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A Message from President Shawn Laatsch

Shawn Laatsch











June 2017

Dear Planetarians,

Summer is almost here, and it is hard to believe how quickly the time seems to fly! Spring was busy, as the IPS officers convened here in Bangor, Maine to plan for the IPS Council meeting in October in St. Louis just prior to the Pleaides Conference. We also continued planning the IPS2018 Conference in Toulouse, France with our host Marc Moutin and his team, explored next steps for Vision2020 with Jon Elvert and his team; and conducted other items of our regular business.

Progress was made on a number of fronts, including moving the IPS website redesign forward. This process now has started, and members will see a new look and new functionality by the end of this calendar year.


As part of my “to do list” from our meeting, I’ll be reaching out to committee and task force chairs regarding goals for the upcoming year and planning for council presentations in St. Louis.


Additionally, officers are asking them to assist Marc Moutin and the IPS2018 Conference Team with the numerous sessions that will take place at our meeting in Toulouse.


Off to NAOJ workshop


Shortly after the IPS officer’s meeting, Mark SubbaRao was off to Japan for the 2017 Data to Dome workshop at NAOJ headquarters in Mitaka. The event was live streamed and you can find tutorials, videos and more at [old link—doesn't work]. You also can read more about the workshop in this month’s Data to Dome column on page 28.


In addition, the European Southern Observatory and IPS have launched the Data2Dome ( initiative. D2D is an emerging open-source community standard for publishing assets to the planetarium community that is open to all digital planetarium software providers/vendors. (Read more starting on page 60 in the September 2016 Planetarian.-ed)


We highly encourage all vendors to integrate this standard into their software packages so that there will be a cross-platform mechanism for content sharing of astronomical data and discoveries across the entire planetarium community.


To be clear: IPS endorses the D2D standard; we do NOT endorse any particular vendor’s product or software package.


“Data to Dome” refers to the broad IPS-led initiative to make it easier to visualize scientific data in a planetarium. “Data2Dome” refers to the ESO-led standard, which is one piece of that larger vision. If you have questions regarding this, please contact Mark SubbaRao or me.


Taking part at IMERSA


IPS was well represented at the IMERSA conference in February with Mark SubbaRao’s Science Matters panel discussion and Charlie Morrow’s remote presentation “Audio Matters” exploring the use of immersive sound in the dome. These collaborations will continue at a variety of upcoming events, and I would like to thank IMERSA for working with us on some sessions that will take place at IPS2018 in Toulouse.


Vendors at Cite de l'Espace

Front: Carole Rimaudiere and Joaa Moriera from LG. Next: Volkmar Schorcht, Zeiss; Michael Daut, E&S; Sophia Dannberg, Zeiss; Estelle Pacalon, RSACosmos; Véronique Hallart, cité de l’Espace; Paul Tetu, Sciss. Back: Benjamin Cabut, RSACosmos; Marc Moutin, cité de l’Espace; Shawn Laatsch; and Pascal Prieur, cité de l’Espace. Photo courtesy cité de l’Espace.


Meeting with sponsors


For the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox (making sure I don’t get Martin George from Launceston, New Zealand or Alex Cherman from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, poking me about seasons/hemispheric differences), I travelled to Cité de l’Espace to meet with the team there to plan for 2018 conference, explore the technical setup options, and work together to make the conference process as smooth as possible.


I want to personally thank the vendors who made time to attend this important meeting and see the space and constraints of the facility.


Toulouse has a 20-meter dome and a 15-meter one with specific setup situations for these facilities. By having vendors visit the site, they could see first hand what is available and how to plan, not just for the domes but also for booth space, storage, and all of the other items associated with having space at IPS2018. Each conference is unique and meeting at the site in advance can help the conference host and vendors feel more at ease in the planning process.


I encourage vendors who were not able to attend to be in close contact with Marc Moutin and Pascal Prieur to make time to visit the site before the end of August to make sure they are ready for the conference in 2018.


Marc Moutin recently sent out a video about the upcoming IPS2018 Conference in Toulouse to all IPS Affiliate Representatives to share during the regional meetings this year. Make sure you get to see it, or ask your rep to see it. It gives a nice overview of the facility and plans for the conference.


New earlier deadline for papers


By the time you receive this, the team from IPS2018 will have sent out the call for papers and workshops, which will be available from June 1 to September 30, 2017. The call is going out much earlier than in previous years as the team plans to meet in St. Louis after IPS Council this year to select papers, organize sessions, and make sure they can accommodate requests for dome presentation by delegates, etc.


Please consider presenting a paper, conducting a workshop, or hosting a panel discussion in Toulouse and sharing your experiences with your planetarium colleagues. Sharing your knowledge and expertise helps the field expand and improve, and inspires new uses of planetariums. Please come share what you do with the global planetarium community!


Cité de l’Espace is a fantastic venue for our conference as in addition to the two domes, the whole park will be available with numerous rooms for workshops and special session. The fabulous exhibits include the Arian 5 rocket, the Mir Space Station, and, of course, the Astronaut Exhibition, where you can experience what it feels like to walk on the moon, explore how astronauts and cosmonauts train, and what life is like in space on the ISS looking through the “cupola” panoramic observation area.


The park is a wonderful area to explore with numerous space artifacts and displays of modern tools of space exploration. Toulouse will also be hosting the IPS fulldome film festival just prior to the IPS conference, making it very convenient for delegates to arrive and see the latest fulldome programs prior to the conference itself. The film festival will take place from June 27 to 29, and the conference from July 1 to 5. See more details about both on page 18 in this issue.


During April of this year I participated in the American Planetarium Operator in Italy project and spent time in Assisi, Brescia, and Gorizia working with planetarium colleagues there presenting to the Italian high school students. It was a wonderful experience and I am indebted to Simonetta Ercoli, Loris Ramponi, and Luciano Bittesini, who were my hosts, for making it so special and facilitating the visit.


This year the students were a bit younger in Assisi and Brescia as compared to past years, being on average 14 or 15 years old, compared to normally 16- and 17-year-old students. Regardless, the students all were eager to learn, and it was interesting to work with them and hear their questions.


The lessons I presented focused on solar eclipses and particularly the one coming up here in the United States on August 21. I also taught cultural constellation stories from Native American and Hawaiian cultures, and how to see the recent comet Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresac. I was really impressed by the students and their eagerness to learn, and especially doing so in a foreign language.


The city of sundials


Franco BrescanMy hosts showed me some wonderful sites, and in particular I will always remember Aiello del Friuli, the city of sundials. This city has numerous sundials of all types, and their library hosts two mechanical models for creating sundial paths for any location on the globe. It is a place I highly recommend visiting as it shows how a town can come together, embracing an idea, and becoming known for exploring how we keep time using the sun.


Franco Brescan shows off his sundial, one of many in Aiello del Friuli, the “city of sundials.” Photo by Shawn Laatsch.


About the time you are receiving this issue of Planetarian, President-Elect Mark SubbaRao and I will be taking part in the IV International Festival of Planetariums organized by the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) of Mexico, which is taking place in Mexico City from June 6 to 10. The conference aims to share best practices in the field of fulldome production for digital planetariums, educational programs, science visualization, and planetarium operations.


We are looking forward to participating with our colleagues there and will report on the meeting in the near future. Mexico has added a number of digital facilities over the last few years and it is wonderful to see how they are using it to share astronomy, space sciences, and numerous other topics with their audiences.


Many planetarium colleagues will be travelling to see the August 21 total solar eclipse and others will be sharing it with their audiences. As planetarians, we have a unique responsibility to share how to view solar eclipses safely and the science of these events. Totality is something beyond words, and those of you who have witnessed it know it is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena one can experience.


I know not everyone will be able to travel for this event, but if you are doing so, I hope you have clear weather and stunning views. My wife Kim and I are headed to Idaho and I’ll be reuniting there with old college friend Tim Locke, who worked with me at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse Planetarium when we were in our undergraduate years. We took an eclipse trip together in 1999, and it is great to reunite for the upcoming one this summer (Northern Hemisphere).


Good luck to all of you eclipse chasers! 

Previous President's Messages:


Shawn Laatsch

Joanne Young
Thomas Kraupe
Dave Weinrich

Tom Mason

Susan Button

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