The latter means it is a favourite with visitors of all ages, and the IVT is regularly used by school and community groups, and for public performances and conferences. But with recent advances in technology and software, there is now a drive to make more people on campus aware of its potential, encouraging students and researchers to use it more regularly.
“The IVT transcends the gap between the arts and sciences, and its potential is enormous,” says Professor Mike Phillips, Director of i-DAT in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. “We can enable audiences to fly through the Milky Way, but we also have software through which they can journey deep inside the human body to the microscopic and nano level. Plymouth is one of very few universities to have such a facility at its disposal, and it is something quite special of which we should actually be very proud.”
The IVT was originally founded as the William Day Planetarium, opening its doors in 1967, but was transformed through HEFCE’s Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) programme. After an internal refurbishment, it was reopened by scientist and broadcaster Adam Hart Davis in 2008, around the same time as its management was taken on by i-DAT.
Once inside, audiences of up to 40 can be exposed to ‘fulldome architecture’ with images generated digitally through a high-resolution projector, fitted with a fisheye lens and connected to customised powerful computers. A ten-speaker audio system completes the immersive experience, also allowing the venue to be used for sophisticated musical performances.
In recent years, its public-facing events have included cutting-edge performances as part of the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival, while the venue also hosted the inaugural Fulldome UK Festival (now a biennial festival hosted by the National Space Centre in Leicester, with touring shows through Brazil, Russia and European planetaria) and displays as part of the BBC’s Stargazing Live.