By Gianna Jirak
The lights, lasers and projections of Prince William County’s only planetarium — the Irene V. Hylton
Planetarium — are shutting off for renovation, but just for a short while.
On March 16, the planetarium is closing for what will be one of the many renovations coming to Hylton High School, and reopening the following school year. With over a million dollars in private donations, the planetarium’s dome, seats and projection will be remodeled. “It’s going to get a total facelift,“ said planetarium director Anthony Kilgore.
When the planetarium opened in 1991 as a part of Hylton High School, it relied strictly on VHS and DVD laser capability. Then, in 2010 it went under an extensive renovation, giving it a Konica Minolta Media Globe 2 fisheye lens star projector, along with an AVI Skylaser RBG laser projection system, bringing modernization to the space.
In this recent upgrade, the planetarium will receive 4K digital laser projection, which will be the first Konica Minolta system of its kind in the United States. “We are very, very excited about some of the changes that are coming here,” said Kilgore.
When the planetarium reopens, it will continue to service and cater to the 99 Prince William County public schools, as well as the public. It offers roughly 80 different shows, ranging in suitability from kindergarten audiences to graduate-student audiences.
For students, the planetarium serves as a purely education experience, allowing them to learn about planets, stars and astronomy in general. But for the public, the planetarium serves as a unique form of scientific entertainment, and when in season, festive shows such as Star of Bethlehem or The Alien Who Stole Christmas are offered.
“Hands down the Holiday Laser Light Festival [is the most popular show]. Folks are always looking for something to do in December — the weather is a bit cold, so they’re looking for indoor activities, they’re looking for something festive, so that meets both needs,” said Kilgore.
The show dates for after the planetarium’s reopening have not been announced, but when they are, tickets will cost $10, with the exception of children 3 and under who are free.
The public, however, can do more with the planetarium than simply attend shows. The space is available to rent for birthday parties, proposals and other activities. “Anything that someone can dream up, if they give me enough notice, we can usually make it happen,” said Kilgore.
Gianna Jirak is a Prince William Living intern with aspirations of becoming an international and political reporter. She is a junior at Hylton High School and the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper.