Loras College students raising money to replace 1960s planetarium projector

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Imagine trying to do homework today with technology from the 1960s.

The projector inside of the Heitkamp Planetarium at Loras College

Well, that's what students at Loras College are dealing with at the school's planetarium.

Inside of the planetarium, a 1965 Goto Venus mechanical projector sits in the middle of dome.

When the lights are dimmed, the night sky reveals itself to you.

Loras College students and the broader community can learn about constellations looking at this projection.

However, there's a problem with the projection.

"Because the projector doesn't project the moon, the sun, the planets, we're kind of stuck with the stars," Loras College junior Natalie Droeske explained.

Constellation viewing is about all students can do in this planetarium. Since the projector is so old, certain wires and light bulbs don't communicate any more.

That's why the planets, suns and moons have gone dark.

Loras College junior Austin Kuchenbecker said, "there's just patches that may be blank or unavailable to us."

That can be frustrating for students who want to learn more about space and astronomy.

That's why a group of students decided it's long overdue to replace this antique.

"We opted for a crowd sourcing option through a website called Give Campus, where you can kind of share it through social media, a little bit like a Go Fund Me," Droeske said.

She, Kuchenbecker, and other students are taking on this project as part of their Honors requirement.

They're hoping to raise $30,000 for a brand new, digital projector.

Faculty adviser Kristen Thompson hopes with a new projector, even more community members will use the planetarium.

"We would then hope to advertise and make sure that every school, every elementary school, every junior high, every high school knows this facility is open to them," she said.

Thompson says currently several thousand students visit the planetarium each year.

The Heitkamp Planetarium is also the only planetarium in a 100 mile radius of Dubuque.

For students looking to explore the sky, they can't wait for the upgrade.

"With this state, anything is better than what we have," Droeske said.

If you'd like learn how to donate, click here.