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Fri August 7, 2009
Lasers at the Planetarium
By Angela Hatton
Golden Pond. KY – In his fifteen years as Land Between the Lakes Planetarium manager Don Partain hasn't put together anything quite like this. Each Friday in August, the planetarium is presenting a series of laser light and music shows. Partain says a laser imaging company out of Orlando, Florida contacted him earlier this year about renting some of their laser light productions. Administrators reacted with enthusiasm, sending Partain and his staff scrambling to put it together in only two months.
"We've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get everything done."
The planetarium is offering a variety of shows, from educational programs for children to compilations by the Beatles, pop groups, and classic rock artists set to lasers.
"And we're doing it as, well, kind of like an experiment. We're going to see how well it goes and maybe we'll do it again next year!"
A high-intensity audio-visual production like a laser light show may seem out of place in a theater meant to promote astronomy, but Partain says the planetarium's design makes it the perfect place to see this kind of show.
"If you see it in a domed room it's completely different than if you see it on the wall or see it on a flat ceiling. It just changes your perspective on everything because the lights are going to come from the top all the way to bottom and back up again which really gives you a sense of a feeling of movement all the time."
And he should know.
"What I do is I come in early in the morning and I can sit in there and watch a couple of them early before everybody else gets here, see. It's just like a kid with a new toy."
Partain gets to show off his new toy when the preview begins. The audience quiets as the lights go down for the first piece, a short educational film about the constellation Orion. A cartoon owl and mouse narrates the story. The next show isn't quite as tame. Some audience members cry out in surprise as jagged fractal images accompany the hard rock. They blossom from the middle of the screen and reverberate down the sides of the dome.
Some songs feature designs and swirls that corkscrew and twirl over the audience, matching the song rhythms. At other times, the lights form scenes, like a desert landscape and huge exotic flowers.
The preview crowd see snippets from six unique laser productions, as well as a complete version of one, Laser Pop.
Show-goer Matthew Todd of Murray has never seen a laser show, but says this one met his expectations.
"The music was excellent and the lasers were fantastic."
"How did it make you feel watching the lasers in the planetarium?"
"A little dizzy at times. Kind of hard to find my bearing in between. It was very intense."
The laser light shows aren't for everyone. Don Partain warns anyone with sensitivity to motion or light to stay away. But to everyone else, he says come on down.
The Planetarium's laser light shows are every Friday night in August starting at 6:45. Click here for full schedule