Mark Webb standing next to the classic Zeiss Mark VI planetarium projector (left) and the innovative Megastar 2 planetarium projector (right) during a side by side test.

Mark Webb is the Manager of Adler’s Planetarium Theaters as well as a Sky
Show Producer at the museum. In the early 1980’s he investigated creating art
with modern technologies such as lasers, electronics, and very early computer
graphics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He found a home for
his love of art, science, and technology in the planetarium field. Mark has an
extensive knowledge of planetarium technical systems and has also written
and produced sky shows that have been presented around the world. He was
hired by the Adler in 1995 and has been responsible for the well-being of Adler’s
theaters every day since.

Mark was an integral member of the team that designed the Adler’s StarRider
Theater, the world’s first fully digital planetarium theater. A decade and a half
later Mark pushed the boundaries of the planetarium again with the Grainger Sky
Theater, the most technologically advanced planetarium to date. He is frequently
requested to provide expertise to groups who are planning to build a planetarium
in their community and is also an active advocate for redefining the planetarium
for the future through creativity.

In July 2011 the Adler Planetarium opened the Grainger Sky Theater. This was a complete renovation of the Adler’s original Sky Theater which had been in daily operation since 1930. Rather than rebuild the past, it was decided that the renovated Sky Theater would represent a new leap forward for planetarium design. Based on our 21st century understanding of the universe, the Grainger Sky Theater is capable of meeting the present and future needs of the Adler’s audiences. In addition to pre-recorded playback the theater has a 3-dimensional database of astronomical objects that can be explored in live, in real time, by the audience.

The screen is a 191 degree dome 70 feet in diameter. The dome travels all the way down below the sightline of the audience to better represent space as an three dimensional environment surrounding us instead of the old concept of an upside down bowl over our heads. Created by a special process, Absolutely no seams are visible on the screen under projection conditions.

The Grainger features an ultra high resolution and contrast image created by 20 separate projectors. These projectors were created for the simulation industry and are used by the military for night vision training. The 20 channels are combined to create a sinlge image with a resolution of 8120 pixels along a 180 degree arc, nearly at the limit of human ability to detect visual detail. Audio in the Grainger is reproduced by a 15.1 surround system with the capability to precisely place and move sounds in 3-dimensional space. The dome, audio, and high resolution image together can trigger 3D perception mechanisms in the brain, creating the illusion of infinite space and making bright objects appear to float off the screen against the invisible black background. The theater seats 199 visitors.