So there’s a company called Ohira Tech. They make a star projector called Megastar. It comes in two flavors, Megastar Zero and Megastar II. Where’s Megastar I? I dunno. Here’s the take… I saw a brief demo of the Megastar during Friday nights’ events, and was impressed. The star projector was under black fabric and was uncovered only in darkness and was re-covered before the lights came up. Mysterious, huh? Today I went by the vendor booth and saw the cute little Megastar Zero sitting on a table. I mentioned to Sky-Skan rep Paul Tetu that I was impressed with the star field and asked if I heard right that the little device was actually projecting 22,000 stars at once. (In comparison, I trained on a Spitz 512 which could project around 9000 stars at once.) He looked confused and said, “You were looking at millions of stars.” If I’m not completely conveying my shock, let me repeat… Yesterday I saw an opto-mechanical projector that was brought to the conference on a plane as carry-on luggage display over 5.5 million stars! The projector uses laser light to produce stars that are literally pinpoints. Then I was asked if I wanted to see it up close. I sat in a small portable dome for five minutes watching that sky rotate and, putting up my hand, watched as some of the star light fell on my palm. It really felt like I was touching the stars. It was a – transforming – experience, to steal a word that’s been thrown around a bit this conference. I could have sat right there all afternoon.
Last night they turned on Super Megastar II (does that sound Japanese enough?) in the big dome at the Adler and let everyone bask in the glory of its 22 million stars!* They also handed out binoculars so we could see details too small to be seen otherwise. The audience wavered between stunned silence and giddy euphoria. I watched as stars blinked in and out as they moved across the dome and fell into the perforations in the dome because they were smaller than the perforations! The inventor of this wonderful machine, Takayuki Ohira, gave the presentation himself. At one point he tried to point out a nebula for us to look at through our binoculars and asked, “Can you see it?” I couldn’t see it and no one around me could either. Then he said, “I guess you might need a telescope to see that one.” A telescope? In a dome? Can you believe that? It’s absolutely incredible. Applause broke out spontaneously across the room. The audience complained when our time was up and we reluctantly had to move on to the next demo.
The only reservations I have about these instruments are in their limited capabilities and lightweight construction. The Zero version weighs less than 25 pounds and has a plastic body. The Super MS II weighs about 110 lbs but didn’t appear any more robust. They are also exclusively star projectors. You can’t display planets, the moon, the sun, or any other object that moves relative to the background stars. And those stars certainly don’t move relative to each other. You almost have no choice but to use a separate system to do any serious education. I question the longevity of these products, but I think the advantages of such a detailed starfield trump it. It really looked great paired with that Sky-Skan system! And from the buzz it appears Megastar and Sky-Skan will be forming a nice partnership to make that hybrid appear throughout the world.
BTW, it really surprised me to discover Takayuki was my age! I don’t know what I was expecting, but looking at an incredible inventor my age and wondering what I’ve done with my life wasn’t it. I went by his vendor booth today and talked for just a minute. He speaks very little English and I speak NO Japanese so hopefully he could interpret my ecstatic emotions in the right way.
Did I mention his entire company has only 4 employees? Yeah. I met all of them. More on that later…
*[I originally had written 22 million because that’s what I heard in the first demo. Then before I published this I looked up the specs on the Megastar II and found it was 5.5 million, so that’s what got published. Now I’ve discovered that what I actually saw was the SUPER Megastar II — which is an astounding 22 million pinpoint stars, just like I heard the first time. The “Super” makes all the difference! :o) ]