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Right now, the instrument that takes you to the stars at Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium is on a journey of its own—all the way to Germany. The planetarium theater’s Carl Zeiss ZKP-4 Star Projector is headed overseas for updates and improvements, officially kicking off several planned renovations to one of the park’s most beloved attractions.

The star projector will return to its manufacturer, Carl Zeiss, where highly trained technicians will perform delicate, precise maintenance on the machine that will keep it running for years to come.

“This is an exciting time for the park, the planetarium and the city,” Planetarium Director Adam Thanz said. “This is the city’s, the park’s and the citizens’ theater, so everything we do is for them—for the current day and for the future.”

This necessary maintenance will keep the planetarium theater operational and in shape for the next decade ahead, ensuring that Bays Mountain Park can continue its goal of educational outreach and inspiration for this region.

So what will you notice, once the star projector returns home from ZEISS? The biggest improvement involves swapping out the halogen lamps that light up the star projector for LED. This will increase the potential brightness fivefold.

“Because of the improved LED technology, the stars themselves will have more of a presence,” Thanz said. “The color of the stars will be whiter and even more accurate.”

The extra brightness means they can be used in conjunction with the digital projections, so the stars don’t get washed out. The higher brightness may also be used for other purposes, and Thanz hopes it will assist visitors with limited vision.

Other planned improvements include replacing the digital projectors and other aging equipment, as well as the seat covers and cushions in the theater. Mounts for the projectors will be installed, as well as other infrastructure work. These renovations are expected to be complete in the spring of 2021.

“We’re not just replacing used equipment,” Thanz said. “We’re preparing for the future that will pay back for many years. When we are able to open safely, and for at least the decade that follows, we’ll have an educational tool that is worthy of the children, and everyone else, in our region.”