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What do our Solar System Gallery and James Dean have in common?

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

They're both connected to the Zeiss Model IV Star Projector!

Written by Lexi Adams, Collections Manager

Zeiss Model IV Star Projector, 1935

Louisiana Art & Science Museum Collection, 2004.014.001

Did you see this picture and think “That looks like something out of an old science fiction movie”? Well, you are half right! Our monumental Piece of the Month for April is actually a Zeiss Model IV Star Projector, the same one featured in the Hollywood classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955) starring James Dean and Natalie Wood.

Planetarium scene from Rebel Without a Cause, 1955

Produced by Warner Bros.

Produced by the Zeiss Company in Jena, Germany, this projector was used in the old LASM planetarium between 1964 and 1985. It weighs 2.5 tons and stands 13 feet tall. When operational, it was capable of accurately projecting 8,900 stars as seen from Earth and was the first projector with star plates made by a photochemical process. At opposite ends of the projector are spheres. When operational, one sphere projected stars of the northern hemisphere and one projected stars of the southern hemisphere.

Zeiss Model IV Star Projector (detail, interior), 1935

Louisiana Art & Science Museum Collection, 2004.014.001

In the image above, you can see the inside of one of the spheres. It shows the many lenses used to project light through the star plates that were fitted inside. Each star plate had a numbered place in the projector. In the image below, you can see where star plate 14 belongs.

Zeiss Model IV Star Projector (detail, exterior), 1935

Louisiana Art & Science Museum Collection, 2004.014.001

The image below shows what a star plate looks like when light is projected through it. Each tiny dot is a star in our universe!

Zeiss Model IV Star Plate, #7, c. 1930s. Metal and glass. 5-1/8 x 1/2 inches. Louisiana Art & Science Museum Collection, 2018.005.001c.

Want to create your own mini planetarium while exploring the constellations found in our nighttime sky? Make your own star plate following the instructions below!

Use the slider below for photos to guide you through the steps of the activity!


Cardboard tube with one end cut like fringe as shown in pictures Scissors Glue Stick Pencil Crayons, markers, or paint to decorate cardboard tube Constellation Patterns (included below)

Flashlight or phone

Directions 1) Choose a constellation from here and draw on it on a circular piece of paper, cardstock, or posterboard.

2) Carefully poke holes with adult supervision in each star with scissors or a pencil.

3) Glue constellation onto cardboard tube. 4) Decorate your cardboard tube with crayons, markers, or paint and write the name of the constellation. 5) Use flashlight or phone to illuminate the constellation.

To Use Your Constellation Scope Hold the constellation scope up to your eye and look at the light coming through the holes marking each star in the constellation. You will see the outline of each star pattern as it would appear in the real night time sky. After viewing the constellation right‐side up, rotate the constellation scope to learn how this pattern looks in the sky when in different orientations throughout the evening. You can use your constellation scope in a dark room, shining a flashlight through the tube to illuminate the constellation on the wall of a dark room.

Activity adapted from the Museum of Science Boston

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