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Stars come out in Midwood • Brooklyn Paper

Stars come out in Midwood

View from the top: Murrow HS planetarium director and astronomy teacher Marc Horowitz says seeing the earth from above gives students an important sense of perspective and humility.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

These kids have a view that’s out of this world.

Students got a look at the newly renovated planetarium inside Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood on April 1. A new interior and a state-of-the-art projector system will allow students to soar to new heights without leaving the school. It is the only public-school planetarium in Brooklyn, and educators say it will give astronomy students a real leg up in their learning.

“This can show you things that you just can’t visualize when you lay back and look at the night sky,” said planetarium director and astronomy teacher Marc Horowitz.

New software and projectors can track satellites and near-earth asteroids, zoom out to a view of the entire Milky Way Galaxy, and take pupils on a three-dimensional tour of the surface of Mars — something students were particularly excited about.

“It feels like you’re almost on it,” said 12th-grade astronomy student Teresa Kugler.

The planetarium opened in 1979, according to the school’s principal, Allen Barge. Former teacher Sam Storch bought a projector from Japan and wired the system himself. But after 35 years, the old system — which only projected an image of the night sky — was getting worn out.

“When I came in, it was beyond antiquated,” Horowitz said.

Now the planetarium uses the same system as the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History — the school can even stream live presentations directly from the Hayden.

“You could not do this in a traditional planetarium,” said Dr. Carter Emmart, who works at the Hayden and helped Horowitz bring the system to Murrow.

Former councilman Domenic Recchia allocated city funds for the more-than-$600,000 renovation, which replaced carpet, chairs, lighting, and the visualization system.

The latter actually required an international agreement between the Schools Construction Authority and the Swedish company that designed the visualization system, according to Recchia.

The school is making plans to invite the public to use the new digs, a school spokeswoman said.

Horowitz said he hopes the planetarium will impart a sense of scale on his students.

“The folks that go to space are profoundly changed,” he said.

The planetarium does seem to have a humbling effect on students.

“It really shows how small we are,” said 12th-grader Rashad Harris.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Stellar view: Edward R. Murrow High School’s new planetarium can show the location of each star comprising the constellations — and their relation to Earth in three dimensions.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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