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A short time from now in a galaxy close to home. The Sci-On! Film Festival returns to Reno May 1 - 4.

Paul McFarlane, the director of the Fleischmann Planetarium, stands in front of the SPACE exhibit at the planetarium.
Kat Fulwider
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Kat Fulwider
Paul McFarlane, the director of the Fleischmann Planetarium, stands in front of the SPACE exhibit at the planetarium.

In the Fleischmann Planetarium at the University of Nevada, Reno, a large hemispherical dome about 30 feet across dominated the center of the planetarium. Although the swirling colors of reds, yellows and oranges painted on its surface were impressive, it is what’s inside this massive model of the sun that was even more surprising.

Planetarium director Paul McFarlane led me down a flight of stairs to see the full-dome theater housed within what he said is the largest 3-D painted model of our solar system’s star.

“This is bigger on the inside than the outside we like to say, like the TARDIS in ‘Doctor Who,’ because you can basically use it as a virtual reality experience for a group of people all at once,” McFarlane said.

The full-dome theater has a 360 degree projector that will project films onto the convex ceiling during the upcoming Sci-On! Film Festival, creating an immersive experience.

“We think it’s probably the only place where you can learn about stars inside of a huge model of a star right here. And that's our vehicle for exploring the wonders of space and time,” McFarlane said.

Kicking off the festival on May 1 is a film that takes viewers on a real NASA mission to an asteroid. The film, “OSIRIS-REx To an Asteroid and Back,” was made by NASA film-maker, James Tralie, who will be present to introduce the film and host a Q&A afterwards.

“He's been following NASA's OSIRIS REx mission, the first mission ever to collect samples of an asteroid to bring back to Earth to help us unlock the secrets of our origin and the origin of our planet and system,” McFarlane said.

The festival will screen 24 short films about science and science fiction from May 1 to May 4 and will host live music and a Star Wars-themed event in honor of May the 4th (be with you.) And, yes, there will be storm troopers in attendance.

“I think this festival is all about science and imagination. So many scientists have said that you really can't do science without imagination,” McFarlane said. “That's what allows us to think about the possibilities and arrive at new understandings, and to go further than we've ever gone before.”

Boarding passes to the cosmos and more information can be found at www.sci-on.org.


 As a disclosure, KUNR News is a media sponsor of the Sci-On Film Festival.

Kat Fulwider is an award-winning documentary photographer and journalism student attending the Reynolds School of Journalism at UNR. She is a fall 2023 student reporter at KUNR Public Radio and the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D., Project for Visualizing Science.