New Sac State planetarium offers students a trip through the stars


Regina Phillips

Front view of Sac State’s new planetarium. The planetarium is part of the Ernest E. Tschannen Science complex that opened earlier this semester.

Brooke Uhlenhop and Regina Phillips

Sacramento State now boasts its own planetarium as part of the Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex that opened this fall. 

Students enrolled in one of the five Introduction to Astronomy courses this fall get to spend their instruction time in one of the 120 lecture seats inside of the sphere-shaped building.  

Planetarium coordinator Kyle Watters holds the remote for the planetarium. 

“Literally, it comes with an Xbox joystick control,” Watters said. 

He said the controller makes it easier to navigate through the screen.

Watters programmed the content to follow a coding script that takes audiences through the galaxy as well as across the globe. It also has the capability to play select movies like “Stars of the Pharaoh,” which explores what the galaxies were like in Ancient Egypt. 

There are two identical 4k ultra high definition projectors that control the displays, one in the front of the room and one in the back. A third projector allows for PowerPoint demonstrations on the screen. 

The ceiling walls are lined with perforated metal panels which serve two purposes: providing airflow from the central heating and air system as well as hiding the Dolby surround sound speakers.

While projecting, the dome interior of the planetarium makes it feel like an IMAX movie, complete with surround sound and reclining, movie-theater-like chairs.

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Tania Nunez, Sac State’s project manager, attributes the artistic design to Fabian Kremkus of the Los Angeles architectural firm CO Architects.  

According to Nunez, Kremkus envisioned a rock being thrown in water creating a ripple effect.  The planetarium itself is centered in front of the science complex and is meant to resemble a giant rock, with the panels on the building behind it getting smaller in width as they extend to the left and right to create a ripple illusion.

Kremkus also wanted to make the planetarium sphere-shaped. The landscaping in front of the planetarium represents an aerial view of California’s agriculture. 

Director of Development Jennifer Navarro, stated that among the guests confirmed for the grand opening on Sept. 18 are Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, California Sen. Richard Phan, Sac State President Robert Nelsen and private donor and namesake of the project, Ernest E. Tschannen.

Attendees will be able to see the planetarium and possibly a viewing of one of the shows that will be running every 10 minutes.

Following the Grand Opening Ceremony, the planetarium will host field trips for K-12  students. The planetarium will also open its doors to the public one weekend a month beginning the weekend of Sept. 21.  

Admission is free for Sac State students and children under 12, and $5 for general admission.  Show tickets can be purchased through the Hornet Ticket Office. For more information about future shows and events, visit the planetarium’s website.