Architecture Engineering Planning Forensic Services

Mapping The Universe

As part of our complete renovation of the Kroc Universe Theater at The Adler Planetarium, the largest planetarium and astronomical museum in the world, the programmers wished to include a "map" of the universe. This display, which was to be incorporated into many of the public sky shows, was to provide an image of the most current understanding of the universe as a series of clusters of galaxies dispersed throughout space in groupings so that, when "sliced through", the appearance was more like that of a piece of Swiss cheese. The design concept was to display this image using fiber optic lighting that could be controlled as part of the show programming and might be illuminated gradually across the length of the theater.

We designed a series of lighting modules, each controlling several hundred individual fiber optic cables that, when illuminated, would represent individual galaxies. These cables were designed to be cut irregularly at the ends to permit the projected light to be seen at any angle, inserted very slightly through the perforated metal pan ceiling of the theater, secured in place, and then illuminated when the specific lighting module was activated. Our design for the lighting modules included the light sources and surrounding enclosures, baffles to eliminate any bleeding of ambient light through the perforated ceiling, cooling fans for the light sources, and clamps to hold bundles of cables at each of eight portals in the light modules. Thirty-six of the modules were fabricated, placed from service walkways above the ceiling grid and secured. More than 12,000 fiber optic cables were inserted through the ceiling in a pattern that the planetarium astronomers drew onto the ceiling surface.

The project was recognized by the International Illumination Design Awards Program of the Illumination Engineering Society of North America