The production team is hard at work putting the finishing touches on the new digital version of one of Morehead’s most popular planetarium shows, “Magic Tree House: Space Mission.” We’re set to wrap our seven month production at the end of September when it will be mixed in 5.1 surround sound. The story and even the audio from the original show is almost exactly the same, except for one change – the voice of Jack. We worked with new voice over actor Blake Pierce (seen here with writer Will Osborne) to record a slightly older sounding Jack voice.

But the majority of our time has been spent using 3D animation and modeling to create more realistic and immersive environments for Jack and Annie to explore. Check out this still from a reimagined scene below!

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

We’ve been conducting a survey of our Morehead members recently and one of the open-ended comments caught my eye. Someone commented that our schedules seem erratic. And they’re right — sort of.

Here’s the scoop to deciphering our scheduling patterns. There’s very little mystery to nights, weekends and summers. We change show schedules in January, June, September and November to provide guests with a variety of shows. The schedules are usually published about three to six weeks in advance of the start date and don’t change except for the occasional special event.

Amazing field tripsOn weekdays between September and May, our schedule is a bit trickier because it’s designed around school field trips. Basically, we only run shows on weekdays during that time if a group has scheduled a show. If seats remain, we open up the show to the general public. We try our very best to verify that the group is coming and how many seats they need before posting these shows on our Web site. That’s why we usually don’t post these shows to our Web site until just a few days in advance and why the schedule seems to always be changing.

However, we’ve found this method to be the best way to offer programming for the general public on weekdays during the school year. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be cost-effective for us to offer any programming for the general public during that period.

We try to offer a lot of flexibility to school groups for scheduling; but, if you want to get an idea about how our weekday schedule will look in 2009-2010, check out the PDF of our field trip planning guide

I hope this post clears up some of the mystery to Morehead’s scheduling practices. If you have questions or any ideas about better scheduling patterns, we’d love to hear them.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Welcome Morehead Director Todd Boyette to the blogosphere. He’ll begin writing in this spot as soon as we can get him set up on the system. Todd will be able to offer insights into the vision for Morehead and its future direction.

Make sure to check out Todd’s bio on the Morehead Web site.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Nellis AFB Solar PanelsThis Thursday night’s current science forum, “Powering Our Way to 2050,” is shaping up to be a good one. Dr. John Papanikolas, UNC chemist and featured presenter, frames it like this, “We’re not going to run out of energy. There’s like 20,000 years worth of coal. The question is: would you want to live on the planet then?” Based on findings provided by climate change scientists, the answer appears to be a resounding no.

So what do we do? Cover the equator in solar panels? Line every street in Chicago with wind mills? Finding realistic and creative solutions to our energy problems is one of the foremost scientific challengers of our time. Whether you’re in the “Drill, baby, drill!” camp or interested in other options, please join us for what is sure to be a stimulating discussion.

For inspiration, check out Megawatt Solar, a local company with a big idea.

– Jonathan

Dr. John Papanikolas will be leading the discussion at this Thursday’s (8/6/09) current science forum entitled “The Future of Energy: Powering Our Way to 2050.” The program begins at 7pm in the Morehead Banquet Hall. Light refreshments are served.

Jonathan Frederick is Morehead's science program manager. He likes bagels.

Tom MarshburnI’ve got to admit it. I meet some pretty cool people in my job. About three years ago, we hosted Tom Marshburn as a guest speaker during the “Destination: Space” premiere weekend activities. Tom is a NASA astronaut who happens to be a North Carolinian. He’s a Statesville native and a Davidson graduate.

I remember thinking at the time what a great role model Tom is for kids. As well as being an astronaut, he’s a medical doctor and seems like an all-around nice guy. He was unfailingly gracious — even as the kids in the audience grilled him about going to the bathroom in space!

Well, yesterday on the 40th anniversary on the moon landing, Tom was living his dream and making headlines. He went space walking as part of current shuttle mission. Way to go, Tom!

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Here’s your hot travel tip for the summer. Membership. Most museum and science center visitors don’t even consider membership as an option unless the ticket seller mentions it, but membership really is one of the best bargains around at most museums and science centers. Consider Morehead for example. A tax-deductible Morehead family membership costs $60 and gets you free admission for an entire year. In comparison, if a family of four (two adults, two kids) visits, they’re going to pay $22 for admission. If they want to see a second show, add another $8. Considering tax benefits, that family more than breaks even on just two visits.

Association of Science-Technology CentersAnd the savings don’t stop there. One of the best parts is the reciprocal agreement that a lot of museums and science centers have for each other’s members: free general admission to participating museums. Morehead participates in a reciprocal agreement with other science centers through the ASTC Passport Program (one big caveat: the reciprocal agreement does not apply to science centers and museums within 90 miles of Morehead). That means you can become a member at Morehead and visit science centers free across the country. I’m sure you’re thinking that it’s a limited number of science centers that participates. Nope. Check out the list for yourself on th ASTC Web site. Most of the biggest and most well-known science centers in the world are on the list. Exploratorium in San Franciso. Yes. The Franklin Insitute in Philadelphia. Check. The Field Museum in Chicago. You bet. Check out the admission prices for some of the science centers, and you’ll figure out in a hurry that membership is a great value.

So why do science centers offer such a bargain? It’s simple really. Think of it as a customer loyalty program. We want you to come as often as you like, and membership makes multiple visits affordable.

So if you’re looking for a great bargain, consider membership. By the way, there are other benefits, too. Get all of the info on our membership page. While you’re visiting that page, you can sign up for membership online or you can sign up when you visit Morehead. One more note, you will need a membership card to take advantage of the discounts at other science centers. Allow a few weeks for us to process your membership application and get it to you.

After you visit science centers using your Morehead membership, come on back here and tell us how it was!

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Morehead: Celebrating 60 Years of ServiceIn recognition of our 60th anniversary, we are extending a special membership offer — 13 months for the price of 12. Membership is already a great deal; this just makes it better. Visit as many times as you want during your membership for just $60 for the entire family. You also get plenty of other extras.

If you are already a Morehead member, you can take advantage of this special offer to extend your membership. Regardless of when your expiration date is, we’ll add the 13 months to the end of the membership.

While membership is a great value (and who isn’t look for great values these days?), membership is also a great way to support Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and its various science education activities. Private giving is ultimately a key to our ability to keep admission prices low; and members form the base of our private supporters.

Learn more about membership or register for membership online now.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Morehead: Celebrating 60 Years of ServiceWe’re celebrating our 60th anniversary in May. The doors to what was then known simply as Morehead Planetarium first opened on May 10, 1949. We had one the first planetariums in the United States and the first in the world on a university campus. (Learn more about our history.) To celebrate 60 years of science and service, we’re going to offer up bargain-basement admission prices the for the anniversary weekend, May 9 and 10, 2009. So make sure to stop by, see a show and help us celebrate a North Carolina icon. Check back in a week or so on our home page for details.

And if you are a Morehead member, make sure to look for the latest edition of Sundial magazine in your snail-mail for an article reflecting on Morehead’s history. I especially love the quotes from designer and Chapel Hill native Alexander Julian who remembers interviewing astronauts at Morehead when he was in junior high.

Have you got any special memories of Morehead? We’d love to hear them.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Earth Action Day LogoSaturday (April 18, 2009) is supposed to be a beautiful day. If you’re planning on taking advantage of the weather with a trip to Chapel Hill, check out Earth Action Day. It’s here at Morehead, however, we can’t really take credit for it. The Town of Chaple Hill with help from Briar Chapel and Duke Energy are staging the event. While you’re here, stop by to see a show or visit the gift shop.

After you visit, feel free to come on back here and post a comment.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Dragonfly TV LogoIf you missed the celebration last Saturday for Morehead’s appearance on PBS’ “Dragonfly TV,” you missed a good time. But you can still catch the show itself. It airs today (April 3) on WUNC-TV at 4 p.m. The show features some local children (some of whom are Morehead regulars). This episode explores nanotechnology. News & Observer blogger Brooke Cain did a nice post on the show.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations