Rare chance to see beneath panels of Planetarium projector

QVMAG Planetarium maintenance

QVMAG Planetarium Officer, Chris Arkless, working on the Zeiss ZKP3 Skymaster projector at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery's Launceston Planetarium.

Media release issued Thursday 10 February 2022

The Zeiss ZKP3 Skymaster projector at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery's Launceston Planetarium is undergoing maintenance this week, offering a rare glimpse at the circuitry and mechanisms which drive the machine.

Planetarium Officer Chris Arkless has been disassembling the machine in recent days in order to replace worn parts, clean internal components and oil the projector's inner workings.

Mr Arkless said his background as an electrician at the former Inveresk railway workshops placed him in good stead to service the Zeiss projector.

'A lot of the technology I used to work with in that role is quite similar to this machine,' Mr Arkless said.

Zeiss ZKP3 Skymaster projector

Launceston Planetarium Zeiss ZKP3 Skymaster projector.

'It's a true electro-mechanical device. It has some digital elements and is driven by a computer, but there are a lot of springs, relays and slip rings, as well as contacts that get grubby over time.

'So my background has set me up reasonably well to look after this machine, and we only need to refer to the manual every now and again.

'The biggest risk we have in doing this work is dropping a small part like a screw into the workings of the projector, but with a bit of care and planning, I'm hoping we can avoid that.' 

The 25-year-old Zeiss ZKP3 is used in conjunction with the QVMAG's full dome digital system to offer an immersive simulation of the night sky.

The projector can display stars that are visible to the unaided eye from anywhere in the world, and simulates the apparent motion of the stars as the Earth rotates.

Mr Arkless said he expected to finish servicing the projector this week, with regular shows resuming next week.

'We've got a great range of Planetarium shows for all ages at the moment, including Tycho Goes to Mars, We Are Stars, Our Living Climate and Birth of Planet Earth,' Mr Arkless said.

'Hopefully the work we are doing with the Zeiss this week will ensure our projector continues to operate in top condition for the foreseeable future.'