Champaign Planetarium prepares for holiday shows

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) - The night sky can be seen in a new light in Champaign.

"It's not like a movie theater in that you can just go out to say the Hickory Point Mall in Decatur or wherever your favorite movie theater is," David Leake, the Planetarium director, says. "It's kind of a unique thing."

The William Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College is full of uniqueness.

"It's the second largest planetarium in the state, second to Chicago," Leake says.

Not to be confused with an observatory, a planetarium doesn't have telescopes or a roof that slides open.

"It's a big domed screen, and a dome is the best way to model the sky outside," Leake says.

Before things went digital they used a star machine - the Carl Ziess Star Machine to be exact - to project the night sky.

"In fact this particular model of this machine was the first installed in the western hemisphere," Leake says. 

If David seems like he really know his stuff, it's because this is his passion.

"Well someday I should go out and get areal job, right? Not many people get paid to do their hobby," Leake says.

He fell in love with astrology when a grade school teacher put up a projection of a constellation using construction paper and cutting holes in it.

"A little shout out to my friends at William Harris School in Decatur, Illinois, that's where I went," Leake says.

Now he helps lead shows. The holiday's seasonal shows are set to begin soon.

"Starting November 11th we have 'Santa's Secret Star'," Leake says. "I'd love to tell you what 'Santa's Secret Star' is but it's a secret so you have to come and see that."

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