The Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium will have to find a new mechanism to perform its laser shows. Hector Vector the Star Projector, Flandrau’s beloved star projector and robot friend, is officially retiring.
The planetarium is involved in research in the UA community and provides research facilities to UA faculty to research topics such as astronomy and space science, among others. In addition to research, Flandrau also puts on planetarium and laser shows for the public. These shows are powered by Vector.
He can be thought of as a so-called magic lantern for projecting snapshots of the skies. Vector is an opto-mechanical projector that depicts highly realistic images of the night sky. These high-quality images allow him to provide planetarium viewers with a true-to-life view of the solar system.
Vector has been part of the Flandrau family since the planetarium opened in 1975 and was named by children who attended his shows, according to Thomas Fleming, astronomer and senior lecturer at the Steward Observatory and UA Department of Astronomy.
Vector began his term at Flandrau as the only projection source in the Planetarium, providing laser shows and images of the night sky from any place on Earth at any time of the day.
Throughout the years, Flandrau has added slide projectors, video projectors, an audio system and other special effects to its full-dome planetarium theater.
“The digital system, it’s amazing by no means, but there’s just something classic about a mechanical object that can really do such an amazing job,” said Shiloe Fontes, who works for exhibits and operations for Flandrau. “We’ve had a lot of time to get to see that great sky.”
Vector has captured the attention of the public for years, educating and exciting visitors about astronomy and the center itself. Vector’s goal in Flandrau was to serve as a guide to the stars and to effectively engage the audience, especially children who attended his shows.
Vector has been at Flandrau for 40 years now, according to Kellee Campbell executive director of Flandrau. However, Vector stepped down from his regular role when budget cuts forced Flandrau to close its doors in 2009.
“We’ve had a lot of people have [sad] reactions,” Campbell said. “Hector is a part of what they remember as far as their experience in Flandrau, but he’s always going to be here.”
Vector will be removed after his final shows on Saturday to make room for approximately 25 new seats in the planetarium, according to the Arizona Daily Star .
Current plans for the planetarium’s renovation include removing Vector and adding new flooring, seating, lighting, acoustic wall treatments and more to the planetarium.
More details about the planetarium’s renovation will be revealed in April, according to Campbell .
She said part of Vector will be incorporated into a science center exhibit, but the final decision regarding the projector is yet to be made. Although he will still be around, Vector’s departure from the planetarium theater will leave many missing him.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Campbell. “He’s always going to be part of the story of Flandrau.”
UA students are also saddened by the projector’s departure. Vector’s technological sophistication and scientific presence will be missed.
“It’s sad,” said Mason Weakley, a management information systems sophomore. “It’s an amazing level of technology.”
Vector will perform his last show, “Tucson Sky and Beyond,” three times on Saturday at 3 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online now at flandrau.org or at the planetarium on Saturday.