The Bigger Picture: Stellar Visions

The Bigger Picture: Stellar Visions


Turning the Rotunda’s dome into a planetarium – one of Thomas Jefferson’s wilder ideas for the central building of the University of Virginia’s Academical Village – has come to light in the darkness. Thanks to the ingenuity of three doctoral candidates in the English department, a vision of constellations appears during student study nights (Sunday through Tuesday) and for special events that are advertised on the website.

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Neal Curtis, Samuel Lemley and Madeline Zehnder conducted some keen literary sleuthing to discover Jefferson’s original intentions for the Dome Room. Using a star catalog that Jefferson knew of, they then harnessed modern digital technology to bring the planetarium to life in a way that the University’s founder could not have imagined.

The Rotunda Planetarium will be open Feb. 27, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with Curtis giving brief remarks about the history of the Rotunda library, as part of the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures’ Humanities Week.

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Anne E. Bromley

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