Enhanced Light System

East Kentucky Science Center Director Steve Russo demonstrates the new ChromaCove ambient light system recently installed at the Varia Planetarium. 

The Varia Planetarium at the East Kentucky Science Center unveiled a new cove lighting system for room and background lighting to replaced the aging system that was installed in 2004 when the Science Center first opened.

The new lighting system was made possible by a $40,000 donation from Dr. Chandra Varia, who has also donated funds to allow students from Floyd County schools, the David School and Carl D. Perkins Job Corps, to visit the science center.

“My staff and I are very appreciative to Dr. Varia for her gift that has allowed us to replace our old system with the best Cove lighting system available,” EKSC Director Steve Russo said. “It is something that we really needed to keep the planetarium in operation.”

Designed and manufactured in the U.S. by ChromaCove in Cleveland, Ohio, this new system uses COB LEDs made by the CREE Lighting company.  ChromaCove is the leading manufacturer of cove lighting systems for planetariums.

The new system, which contains red, green, blue, and white LEDs, is able to generate more than 18.4 quintillion color combinations, which according to Russo, allows for more “true” color combinations during shows, in addition to being used as regular room lighting.

“It can also be used to simulate a variety of astronomical effects such as “light pollution” in cities as well as the different colored atmospheres of other planets,” Russo said. “This system can also be used as ‘special effects’ and ‘mood lighting’ to add color to our already existing laser shows and future live events.”

With over 50 special effects pre-built into the system and the ability to program custom effects, ChromaCove has engineered the “most elaborate and best cove lighting system available today,” a press release from Big Sandy Community and Technical College said. Russo said that many planetariums have ChromaCove on their “wish lists” for quality shows and presentations.

“ChromaCove is a company that was built by planetariums, for planetariums, because they understand the unique conditions and challenges that come from working on a 360 overhead screen,” he said. “What’s more is that the company designs, engineers and manufactures their components in Cleveland, making it that much more user friendly for maintenance, repairs and updates.”

The ChromaCove system was installed by Ash Enterprises of Cocoa, Fla. /Richmond, Va., with assistance from the staff of the EKSC, who also spent several months preparing the dome and removing the old lighting system to make way for the new one.

Ash enterprises has had a long term relationship with the EKSC, as they have been servicing the center’s GOTO Chronos since it was installed in 2003.

“This new setting lighting really sets the standard for planetarium shows,” said Russo. “There are planetariums in major cities that don’t have such a sophisticated set up for their shows. It’s groundbreaking.”

For more information, please contact Russo at, (606) 889-4809, or, srusso0002@kctcs.edu.

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